“A great literature will yet arise out of the era of those four [Civil War] years, those scenes—era compressing centuries of native passion, first-class pictures, tempest of life and death—an inexhaustible mine for the histories, drama, romance, and even philosophy, of peoples to come—indeed the verteber of poetry and art (of personal character too) for all future America—far more grand, in my opinion, to the hands capable of it, than Homer’s siege of Troy, or the French wars to Shakespeare.”
Walt Whitman, 1879
As I keep going down this rabbit hole of revisionist history, I try to imagine how Walt Whitman would interpret some of the literature that made it out of the era that he so elegantly described above. Today’s reading being the primer, The Ku Klux Klan or Invisible Empire, published by the Daughters of the Confederacy. A primer that would be adopted into schools by the State of Mississippi. I don’t think this is what he had in mind. One thing I know for certain is—I wish I would of read Walt Whitman instead of this. Nevertheless…
S.E.F. Rose, also known as Laura Martin of the West Point, Mississippi chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy—published this pamphlet in 1914. She was from Pulaski, Tennessee, the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. Her grandfather had hosted early Klan meetings at his home, as confirmed in a letter from founding member, James R. Crowe, in this pamphlet. She would get letters from the last 2 living “Pulaski 6” members to include in her work. One thing in those letters that jumped out to me, is the detailed account of the swearing-in ceremony of CSA General Nathan Bedford Forrest as the first Grand Wizard of the Klan. The same General Forrest that people have a really hard time deciding if he was in the Klan or not. The Daughters of the Confederacy certainly had no reserves about his membership, nor did the founding members of the Klan.
The beginning of the book is mostly Rose waxing poetic about the conditions of the post war south. Striking up sentimentality for the Southland while describing the ruinous conditions that made for the necessity of the Klan. Some of these conditions carry truth, but there’s a real added flare of dramatics to this. Reconstruction had turned life upside down in the South, no doubt about that. She best paints her picture for this affront to the Southern White way of life in Chapter V: CARPET-BAGGERS—SCALAWAGS—AND NEGROES.
She makes the case that no humiliations were too great for the Radical Carpet-Bagger to afflict upon the Southerner. She says that they, along with the Scalawag (native born whites who were traitors, preaching of equality for Negroes) “would march the ignorant Negro to the polls and make them vote, under a banner inscribed, ‘Down with Democracy.’” She then goes into a description of the faithful Negro, or “Old Confeds“, that would follow their masters to war and knew their place to remain with “ole Mistis and de Chillun,” not looking for their promise of 40-acres and a mule —instead they longed for the “good ole days befo de war,” when “Ole Massa and Ole Missis” looked after all their bodily and spiritual needs. She wrote it, not me. My research map of stereotypes is really starting to come together now.
The book also talks of how the Klan used scare tactics to intimidate and win control back of the South. They admit to killing Negroes, but stick to a narrative of only because they offered violent resistance first. They blame the more violent instances on “bogus” Klan’s that were probably made of Carpet-Baggers looking to make a financial gain. After all, the Ku Klux Klan was made of the most distinguished and honorable men that the South had to offer. They were Confederate heroes that won the South’s dignity back. At least that is what this book certifies. It is officially endorsed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy with the pledge to adopt it in schools across the land. The Sons of Confederates Veterans fully endorsed this book as well and also pledged their efforts to have it placed in schools. Two of the founding KKK members contributed written letters to the book. I could get into this more, but I want to point out what is always the glaring issue—no matter how they try to spin it—White supremacy. Their words, not mine.
In Chapter XII: Lessons Taught By The Klan, she lays out the three many lessons left by these hooded “heroes” that they aimed to hammer home:
“The Inevitability of Anglo-Saxon Supremacy; when harassed by bands of outlaws, thugs, carpet-baggers, and guerillas, turned loose on the South and upheld by political machinery, during the Reconstruction period, the sturdy white men of the South, against all odds,maintained white supremacy and secured Caucasian civilization, when its very foundations were threatened within and without.”
“A new revelation of the greatness and genius of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the ‘Wizard of the Saddle’ the great Confederate cavalry leader. As Grand Wizard of the Invisible Empire, to his splendid leadership was due, more than to any other thing, the successful carrying out of the high and noble purposes of the real Ku Klux Klan.”
“The grandeur of the character of the ‘Men who wore the Grey,’ the Confederate soldiers, the real Ku Klux. They were not only great in war, but great in peace, and great in the performance of every Duty, which Robert E. Lee, the mightiest military chieftain the world ever saw, pronounced, ‘The sublimest word in the English language.’”
There’s more talk of White Supremacy in the book, but there’s no need for me to get into it. The book ends with a short biography of Grand Wizard Forrest. Someone who seemed to try to distance himself from the Klan in a political light, but openly boasted about their success behind closed doors. I’ve written a lot on the DOC’s involvement with memorializing Forrest in previous essays, but I want their own published words to speak for themselves on the matter:
“Many great monuments have been erected to his memory, but his greatest monument is erected in the hearts of the people of the Southland whom he loved so well and served so faithfully. All honor to General Nathan Bedford Forrest,—Leader of the Confederate Cavalry, and of the Ku Klux Klan.
S.E.F. Rose, Daughters of the Confederacy
In Forrest’s first year as Grand Wizard (1867)—there were 25 murders, 83 assaults, 4 rapes, and 4 arson’s between June and October—in Tennessee alone, all attributed to the KKK. The defenders of this heritage are refusing to recognize this part of it. The DOC recognized the Ku Klux Klan’s role in returning the South to the culture of White supremacy, they glorified it and championed for it to be taught across the nation. But the people who defend the Confederate culture now—including the DOC themselves—try to tell their half-truths about it. If you want the statues to stay—then they HAVE to have context. These men were Klansmen. Admittedly so. The Klan was made of the Confederacy and that flag is tied to the same history, like it or not. White supremacy is pulled from their words, not some new “leftists” talking points.
I put the pictures below of the “stories” from “Ole Black Mammy” and “Old Uncle Wash,” they put in this pamphlet. They are false and disgusting. Again, this was taken to schools and Mississippi actually adopted it. I read the firsthand congressional testimonies from survivors of Klan raids, and they were far more violent than the harmless pranks that the DOC tells here. It’s incredibly insulting to claim that the Ku-Klux Klan won back the South just from playful intimidation tactics, as if there is such a thing. They were a terrorist organization. As usual, they left out the actual accounts of Black folks from that time. The narrative in the book would have you believe that every single Black voter was illiterate, as well as the Black men who were elected to office. That’s no joke, that is the actual claim.
Rose tells the story that these “heroes” just vanished into the night after they won Reconstruction. The truth is that they just didn’t need to wear robes anymore. The entire South entered into a mob mentality of lynch law that would last for decades. This is what the KKK had established. As is the case with much of what is going on today, they made a culture of “we best not talk ’bout that right now,” when it came to the ugly and violent truths of Southern society. One freed slave, (insert sarcasm font here) who actually learned to read and write, would go on to publish the stories of the horrific lynching culture that followed the Klan’s declared victory in the South.
Ida B. Wells was born into slavery and went onto be a journalist and anti-lynching crusader—as well as a founder of the NAACP. On October 26, 1892 she published the pamphlet, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. She proposes that the Southerners mostly all cried rape as the excuse masking their real intentions for lynchings; The economic progress of Blacks. Using lynchings to suppress Black progress and to carry out their disenfranchisement was now the law of the land. In Southern Horrors she prints a statement from Col. A.S. Colyar of Nashville, a White man and Confederate politician. He speaks openly about the horrid state of lynch law in the south:
“Nothing since I have been a reading man has so impressed me with the decay of manhood among the people of Tennessee as the dastardly submission to the mob reign. We have reached the unprecedented low level; the awful criminal depravity of substituting the mob for the court and jury, of giving up the jail keys to the mob whenever they are demanded. We do it in the largest cities and in the country towns; we do it in midday; we do it after full, not to say formal, notice, and so thoroughly and generally is it acquiesced in that the murderers have discarded the formula of masks. They go into town where everybody knows them, sometimes under the gaze of the governor, in the presence of the courts, in the presence of the sheriff and his deputies, in the presence of the entire police force, take out the prisoner, take his life, often with fiendish glee, and often with acts of cruelty and barbarism which impress the reader with a degeneracy rapidly approaching savage life. That the State is disgraced but faintly expresses the humiliation which has settled upon the once proud people of Tennessee. The State, in its majesty, through its organized life, for which the people pay liberally, makes but one record, but one note, and that a criminal falsehood, ‘was hung by persons to the jury unknown.’ The murder at Shelbyville is only a verification of what every intelligent man knew would come, because with a mob a rumor is as good as a proof.”
Ida B. Wells had to leave Memphis under threats of being lynched to publish these accounts. This was what the culture had become in the South. Glorify the parts of the past we want, and leave out the accounts we don’t. Then when things—like the truth about the Ku Klux Klan—start to get in the way, we better distance ourselves from them too. There was as much work in suppressing the voice of Black authors, and the education of Blacks—as there was in spinning a new narrative about the glory of the old Confederate heroes.
The thing I see the most in researching this, and from my own upbringing in the South, is that the decades of Reconstruction are glossed over at best in school. There was a period in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that the “Lost Cause” narrative was celebrating the Ku Klux Klan, wanting it taught in schools and even succeeding in Mississippi (of course). But, as more and more African Americans were being educated, the other side of the story was getting told. The “Lost Cause” narrative focus shifted to toning down and subverting the KKK and centralized on how to literally segregate the Black voice and mind.
Overall I give this book 1.5 out of 5 burning crosses. It’s horrendous in context, but for the value of the project I am working—on they really knocked it out of the park. There is almost an impressive comedic level in her impressions of Black folk, but then it quickly gets infuriating, because these stereotypes are still held up today, let alone that this is a book championing the Ku Klux Klan. Thank God that it didn’t make it’s way into more schools, but the same basic ideas did and some of these “values” and “heroes” are still out there, written in stone. Oh, and this same author also wrote a glowing review of the film , ABirth of a Nation, a year later. The film would quite literally ignite the rebirth of the Klan in Stone Mountain, Georgia and membership would reach the multi-millions in the 1920s.
Plenty more to come. Love all y’all.
James C. Marshall, July 19, 2020
Rose, S.E.F. The Ku Klux Klan or Invisible Empire. 1914. L. Graham Co., LTD., New Orleans, LA. ISBN: 9789353867003
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2010. They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. ISBN: 9780544225824
Wells, Ida B. 1892. Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.
So, I’ve been trying to think of how I wanted to say something about this whole situation all day. I’m no stranger to speaking out and I’ve honestly been tired of it lately. I feel like some of it falls of deaf ears, but if I’m tired then what the hell does that make my brothers and sisters of color that go through this everyday?
It takes something like a martyr that is personally relatable to get me back into writing or make me motivated and that is NOT how it’s supposed to be. This skater, Anthony Huber gave his life to try and stop this 17-year old terrorist, who came from out of state, after he had already murdered one protestor, and was marching around the streets with an illegally obtained AR-15 firing at others. He had passed cops all night and this whole thing just disgusts me.
I try to relate over and over how lucky I’ve be throughout my life to get away with all the shit we did when we were kids and all I can think about is this skater gave his life to something I’ve been saying I’ve been about my whole life.
It was like 1998 or 1999 idk, Snellville, Ga – a usual run around with the cops from skateboarding and general suburban mayhem resulted in a friend of mine cracking a cop over the head with his skateboard—as we all fled in various directions. We got away from them all the time like this, normally not being so violent. They would take it out on us when we got older, but we didn’t get filled with holes and killed either. And that’s the privilege that I’ve been tired of helping others try to see, but it has to be talked about.
May he rest in power, but I sit here tonight feeling like Anthony Huber gave his life for all of us punks running around causing shit and not doing enough back in the day. God knows I have preached my share of it and went down on some self-martyrdom trips of self-righteous sanctimony.
I read something that I’ve been spinning around in my head all week that I want to write my take on here. There’s a great book that just came out by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. called, Begin Again, where he uses James Baldwin’s writings to make lessons for the present day.
The way I saw it presented is that we already have 2 strikes against us when it comes to racial injustices and the failure to make the necessary course corrections as a country;
Reconstruction Redemption: Coming out of the Civil War and emancipation, freed slaves were given new rights. Men could vote and hold political office and own land. The so-called “redemption” of the South carried out by the Ku Klux Klan and other hoodlums violently took away those rights following the compromise of 1877 (following the contested presidential election of Hayes, the South conceded the results for the withdrawal of federal troops) this lead to the Southern states establishing new constitutions and the Jim Crow segregation South. That’s the first strike.
Civil Rights Era results in the War on Drugs: Following the end of the Jim Crow era and segregation—the “Southern Strategy” switched all southern democrats over to the Republican Party under the guise of “law and order” and new coded speak for the same old racial rhetorical. If you dispute this just go lookup Lee Atwater during the Nixon administration. Regan ramped this up tremendously in the 80s and Clinton made it worse with bringing the Democrats to a centrist platform and establishing even worse mandatory minimums on-violent crimes. The result is an atrocious cyclic prison for profit system. One that people seem to agree more and more about how unfair it is—they just can’t agree that it was founded on racism.
That leads me to my roundabout point and potential strike 3…
The American economy is founded on free labor and we have a hard time letting go of that. That’s just the truth. Race was created as a construct to divide the European slave trade in the 1400s and wasn’t really ramped up in America until about the 1620s. The creation of the cotton gin in 1793 turned the industry into an economic giant that demanded millions of slaves in the South. Despite what you may have read growing up, the South was never going to give up slavery. They spoke extensively about this. It was too profitable and the plantar class was the educated class that controlled almost all southern politics. Please do yourself a favor if you believe some of the “lost cause” narrative and research the Dunning school of thought. The war was inevitable.
Once the war was over the violent backlash to take back the South from freed slaves, “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags” was relentless. This period of Reconstruction is glossed over at best in schools, largely due to the fact that the South had gained control of the media and schools and influence on stories that were told, using the Daughters of the Confederacy to do most of the heavy lifiting. As we’ve moved further away from that time the more has been uncovered and the more voices from Black scholars of the time have come to the forefront. There were plenty of accounts telling the actual truth back then, but they were literally suppressed and even killed.
Lynch law ruled the land after the compromise of 1877 and they didn’t have to bring the hoods out anymore—they just did it in broad day light. No joke y’all, lynchings were advertised in the papers and special trains were run from out of town to bring in families, children would pick souvenirs from the corpses. Numerous race riots under the false pretenses of “outrages” on white women. How many of you know about the Atlanta race riot of 1906? I barley did until this year.
All of this established sharecropping and convict-leasing systems that were steps back towards slavery and more free labor. The people who profited from all of this would just need to keep inventing new ways to continue the cycle of free labor…
The long and violent road for civil rights, not even equal rights, just civil, resulted in the backlash of systemic injustice of the private prison pipeline. Manufacturing a system of oppression that’s so complicated, that we all get caught up in it and can’t agree on what or who it effects because it effects most all of us. It honestly pains me sometimes when some of y’all can’t understand that your personal experience as a White person still doesn’t relate to the entire experiences of another race. And no one is not taking your experiences seriously either, but when you interject yourself as the center of attention as an individual in a discussion about a systemic issue, then we have a fallacy in communication. But the numbers are out there for all to see and are staggering. The disproportionate policies of policing were intentionally designed and some of the biggest companies in this country still profit from prison labor.
So, my point is something like we are on the cusp of strike 3. The election of a Black president was more significant than many of my White friends will ever admit to themselves. I know it was to me at first. I had my own insecurities that I had to get past early on, and I had a lot of conversations with friends about these things. If it seems like I’m making some big leap on how Trumps rhetoric and response to all that has happened with police, Charlottesville, and race in his administration relates with with how this country responded during Reconstruction or post the Civil Rights Era — then maybe you really need to examine what your personal issues are with all that’s going on. The election of a Black president signaled a massive step forward in accomplishment alone. The response from that has been telling and the result of all the ugliness we continue to try and sweep under the rug. It can’t be hidden and covered up anymore.
The looting or rioting or whatever the media wants to call it is nothing. It’s drops in a bucket in comparison. These are things and objects in comparison to human lives. This isn’t me advocating for destruction of people’s property or anything, but saying it’s the likely outcome from failure to listen and act on the same old shit.
America, maybe you have one strike left and need to actually step up to bat for once.
Throughout the years I’ve often read about this film, seeing the offensive clips and images — not feeling the need to look any further into it. While researching Reconstruction-era revisionism, this film and the novel it’s based on (The Clansman by Thomas Dixon) come up repetitively. But, I knew it was a 3-hour movie and after many hours of consumption on the subject, I had only seen maybe 3-minutes or less of total footage. So, I decided to put myself through something I had been putting off for many years. I’m not going to lie, it was painful to get through. I was thorough in taking notes, as well as taking screenshots, but I’m ultimately glad I did. It revealed much more than I thought it would about The Lost Cause narrative, including what I see as a major course change in the way that that story is told. This movie was without a doubt a cinematic breakthrough, but I won’t talk about that other than to say that was an excuse used by many to ignore the content of the story. It cannot be understated what the negative effect of this film was on this nation. So, below I want to lay out some of the history surrounding the movie, as well as a detailed review (with pictures). This is probably one of my longest “Revisionist Reviews,” but the content of this movie made me want to take time to point out some of the actual history, as well as highlighting some of the overlooked historical figures. Thank you for your time if you read this! It’s mostly pictures anyways…
On April 26, 1913, A thirteen-year-old girl, Mary Phagan, was found raped and murdered in the basement of the National Pencil Company where she worked in Marietta, Georgia. A Jewish worker from New York, Leo Frank, was ultimately tried and convicted of the crimes. After a couple years of unsuccessful appeals, around 100 men would organize as “The Knights of Mary Phagan.” They would select around 25 men to carry out the task of getting retribution for Mary. They had been called to order by local bigot, Atlanta race riot instigator, and former U.S. Representative, Thomas E. Watson. Watson had decided that the coverage of the case — and the appeal process — had been effected by an international Jewish conspiracy. A theme that would become common in the coming decades for those self-appointed knights. On August 16, 1915, the Knights of Mary Phagan abducted Leo Frank from a Georgia prison farm and hanged him in the first known lynching by automobile in America (traveling lynch mob by car, in my understanding). There is a historical marker in that location today.
Exactly two months later these same men would be part of the first group to summit Stone Mountain, Georgia for the first ever cross-burning ceremony of the newly reborn Ku Klux Klan. While hospitalized some months earlier, William Joseph Simmons became fixated on a fever dream he had bringing about the ultimate fraternity. He had some failings in the past with other orders like the Knights Templar, Masons, Odd Fellows and others. He had heard word that Thomas Dixon’s novel The Clansman had just been made into a successful motion picture. So, he obtained a copy of the 1867 Reconstruction-era Klan prescript and got busy. Essentially he added a bunch of K’s and KL’s to words and some other coded jargon and a series of passwords—you know secret society stuff. On October 26th, 1915, they signed an application with the State of Georgia to charter the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan as a “purely benevolent and eleemosynary” fraternal order. Simmons designated himself as Imperial Wizard, similar to that of Nathan Bedford Forrest before him. Simmons would perform another cross-burning ceremony at Stone Mountain the week of Thanksgiving for a handful of new members. The preliminary charter was approved by the State of Georgia on December 4, 1915 — two days before D. W. Griffith’s groundbreaking and history revising film, The Birth of a Nation, was set to premiere in Atlanta. Simmons had taken out an advertisement in an Atlanta paper right next to the movies ad, hoping to capitalize on the films success that was already sweeping the nation. And capitalize they did. On the night of the premier, Simmons and some of his newly christened knights put on their freshest bed sheets, saddled up on horseback, and fired rifle salutes into the air, as they rode back in forth on Peachtree Street — riling up the the patrons lined up outside of the Atlanta Theater. This was an effective stunt they would repeat at future showings. In the next two weeks Simmons initiated 92 new members in Georgia—by the mid 1920’s it was estimated that membership in this newly born Ku Klux Klan was near 4 million nationwide. As I write this, an amalgamation of Lost Cause influenced Confederate supporters are planning for a “Save Stone Mountain” rally this Saturday (08/15/2020).
It’s hard to imagine if D.W. Griffith knew what kind of splash his adaptation of Thomas Dixon’s novel would make—but it a tsunami. An estimated 25 million viewers saw this film across the country. Special trains were ran from rural areas into cities just to it. The movie had received approval from President Woodrow Wilson, who had screened the movie at the White House as a favor to Griffith, an old school mate. The NAACP protested the showing of the film across the country, lead by William Monroe Trotter. The protests lead to violent clashes and arrests in Boston. The fruits of these protests were some the earliest marches by the NAACP. Ultimately the film would gross over $60 million dollars and establish film-making as a booming American industry.
In 1920 an African-American author and filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux, would release the film Within Our Gates, often considered his response to The Birth of a Nation. Micheaux never quite confirmed that, but the film is a more accurate portrayal of what real life was like during Reconstruction. It’s absolutely worth the watch, as are his other movies. Now, to the film review…
NOTE: Some of the images, title cards, vernacular and words used in this article are taken from the film directly and are meant for historical reference. Much of it is vulgar, inappropriate, and offensive. If I make jokes out of some of it, please know that it is not because I do not take this serious. The purpose of my reviews is for recording my thoughts on revisionism through Reconstruction, as I have been doing with my other articles. If I don’t crack a couple jokes at some of this — I think I’d lose it. The larger project at hand for me is documenting how these films, books, monuments, and more, changed how history has been perceived. Much of it having a negative impact on society. On that note I want to preface my review with an observation I hadn’t quite seen in this light before now:
During this film they specifically only reference people of color from the North as either Black or Mulatto. The slaves or “old faithful servants” in the South are referred to exclusively as Negroes, if their race is brought up at all. As I hope to lay out below, this is an important distinction the film makes; the Northern Black that is serving office, voting, and lobbying for equal rights — is out of his place and not qualified for the job. The old Southern Negro that is subservient, knows their place and is portrayed to be happy and has all their needs taken care for.
I’ve noticed coding before, but as I go farther and farther down this revisionist rabbit hole, I start to see where the seeds were planted. This is the stem of the ol’ “you know there are two types of them, right?” crap I grew up hearing in Georgia. I still hear that one. Believe it or not, I actually get some relief when I start to see where previous generations learned these things. Racism isn’t an inherent principle, it is taught. It can be unlearn and more importantly, correct principles can be taught moving forward. Now, that review…
The Stoneman Family. The Northern family based out of Washington D.C.
Austin Stoneman; The head of the family and an abolitionist U.S Representative most certainly based on Thaddeus Stevens, the leader of the Radical Republican party on the 1860s and one of the most outspoken critics of slavery and supporter of enfranchisement for Blacks.
Elsie Stoneman; Our leading lady and a future damsel. Noted in the film to be ignorant of her father’s radical plans. Her tender heart leads her to work as a nurse at a Washington hospital during the war, where she plays banjo for the soldiers.
Various Stoneman Sons; I think there is a Phil and a Tod and maybe another one. At least one dies in the war if not all. The overall focus of this movie kind of shifts to the Southern family.
The Stoneman’s Mulatto Servant: Their words. She is always spying on the political conversations, waiting to seize on the moment for her people to hatch whatever their grand supposed scheme is.
The Cameron Family. Our faithful Southern family from the Piedmont Region of South Carolina. They are the embodiment of the Southern ideals that The Lost Cause calls for.
Doctor Cameron; The Master of Cameron Hall. Doctorate unknown.
Mrs. Cameron; The proud matron of Cameron Hall. First name unknown.
Colonel Benjamin Cameron; AKA “The Little Colonel” The hero of the film and the eldest of the Cameron sons (I think).
Two more Cameron Sons: I’m pretty sure BOTH of these die in the war. Leaving Lil’ Colonel with quite the sense of duty and honor.
Margret Cameron; Eldest sister who is good at sewing. It’ll come up later…
Flora Cameron; AKA the pet sister. The youngest sister with a sense of innocence too fragile to break.
Mammy; “The Faithful Servant” Mammy has a strong and not-so subtle subplot in this film and of course I have some thoughts on it…
Another Faithful Servant; This falls into the “Ole’ Uncle Wash” trope and plays second fiddle to Mammies story with the Cameron family.
Puppies; a couple of adorable puppies on the porch of Cameron Hall, no doubt put there for a future callback…
Silas Lynch; The Mulatto protégé of Stoneman who is made out to have maniacal plans of a would-be conquering king. He is said to be modeled off of Alonzo J. Ransier and Richard Howell Gleaves. Ransier was the first African-American Lt. Governor in South Carolina before going on to serve in the House and Gleaves also served as Lt. Governor of South Carolina. Put a pin in that.
Gus, the renegade carpetbagger; Made to resemble a low-life type in the Freedman’s Bureau (carpetbaggers) that is clearly made out to be unqualified for his job, but keeps getting a pass anyhow. You have no doubt seen him if you’ve ever seen anything about this film.
Abraham Lincoln; In the film, but not for long, I will say that actor has the look down pretty well.
John Wilkes Booth; Appears in the movie for a shorter time than Lincoln, obviously.
Charles Sumner; Senator from Massachusetts and abolitionist. Considered leader of the Radical Republican Party leading up to the Civil War and during Reconstruction (IRL).
The Ku Klux Klan; The hooded heroes of the film, as they tell it. Born out of necessity to fight the flames from the horror and hardships caused by Radical Republican reign and nefarious negro negligence.
Jesus Christ; Yes, Jesus Christ. I was very surprised too. Everything I knew of this film, that wasn’t one of them. More to come on that…
The film begins with introducing us to the two families—opposite in ideals, but united in kindred and pure spirit. The Stoneman family of Washington is lead by an abolitionist politician, fashioned after Thaddeus Stevens. The Cameron clan is an honorable and distinguished family from South Carolina’s Piedmont region. There is Doctor Cameron, the Master of Cameron Hall, Mrs. Cameron and their loyal sons and daughters — along with their faithful servants lead by everyone’s favorite Mammy. Also, a couple of adorable puppies on the plantation porch placed for future purpose.
Representative Stoneman sends his family South to visit with the Cameron clan. Only daughter Elsie stays behind. The Cameron’s give them a taste of Southern hospitality and show them what the true plantation life is like—not those stories the radicals tell up North. There is some classic courtship of course, between Phil Stoneman and Margret Cameron — while Ben Cameron falls in love with a picture of Elsie — who again is back home.
Meanwhile back in Washington, Representative Stoneman is politicking with Senator Sumner as the Stoneman’s Mulatto servant listens in with devilish delight. This is the first seed planted of a nefarious plot of a Black uprising being the real reason behind abolition. A newspaper clipping reads “North carries election, The South will secede.” As war approaches, the visitors are called home. The chums bid farewell, but promising to meet again…
Off to war we go. The Stoneman brothers go off to their regiment, the Cameron’s to their own. There is a big ball in the Piedmont after the 1st Battle of Bull Run. It’s quite the extravagant scene and no doubt meant to draw up sentimentality. Dixieland plays the following day as the heroes march back off to war. They make a big to do about the Confederate flag. Now as the heroes go off to war it leave the Piedmont open to aggressors…
As the war rages on. Two of the Cameron brothers have already died in action, as well as a Stoneman. With only a couple of Chums left, that promise comes true…
As Ben “Lil’ Colonel” Cameron is about to deliver the death blow to a Yankee, he is distracted by the face of an old chum. It’s one of the Stoneman brothers! “I can’t kill him, he’s my chum!” would of been what Lil’ Colonel exclaimed would this of been a movie with spoken dialogue. But, while he was stopped in his tracks, Lil’ Colonel took a shot to the gut landing him in a hospital in enemy territory. While in the hospital fate would deal Lil’ Colonel an unexpected, but welcomed hand…
As the courtship blossoms—the war is coming to its fiery finale…
With the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox, Mrs. Cameron sets out to Washington to get her son pardoned from the President…
And then that fated night at the theater, April 14th, 1864…
Thus concludes part 1 of 2 on The Birth of a Nation. And concluded what was the biggest surprise thus far in my viewing of the film. A drastic change in the Lost Cause narrative: Love for Lincoln. This film shows Lincoln to be sympathetic to the South and makes the Stoneman character and Senator Sumner to be the agitators. The Lost Cause by Pollard—that is the doctrine for all the revisionism of the South—places a large amount of wartime blame on Lincoln’s shoulders. As did the Daughters of the Confederacy during the late 19th and early 20th centuries (they would ramp the Lincoln disdain up again a bit a few years after this). From the pardon of Lil’ Colonel, to the way he carries himself throughout the film—it is portrayed with respect, not the disdain that was generally displayed in the Southern media of the Lost Cause. I think the purpose for this was obvious. It was 1915 and the movie needed to reach a wider audience. The traditional Southern Lincoln slander would not play in Northern or Western cities across America. After all, the hype of this movie was largely in part to President Woodrow Wilson screening it at The White House. I’m putting a pin in this one as a significant course change in Lost Cause-Redeemer Revisionism. I’ll admit that I haven’t read Thomas Dixon’s The Clansman that is the basis of this movie, but I have read much of the other literature of Lost Cause rhetoric and this is a drastic change in course.
Now on to part two: Reconstruction. The emphatically important part of the story for Griffith and Dixon. Part one had romanticized the Old South—while planting some seeds of the coming hostilities of aspiring Blacks, should they be given equal rights. Also, they painted a picture of smoothing over the hostilities between Northern and Southern Whites to unite them in one common goal…
After the assassination of President Lincoln, Radical Representative Stoneman has now become the most powerful man in the country. After conferring with Senator Sumner, Representative Stoneman sets out to make his Mulatto protégé, Silas Lynch, the face of equality and the man to bring about reconstruction to the South. He dispatches Lynch to the South to aid the carpetbaggers in organizing and aiding in the Negro vote…
Lynch comes to the South and aids the carpetbaggers, the Union League and the scalawags in winning the elections. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves…
Meanwhile Mammy runs into troubles with the “uppity” servants that The Stoneman’s brought down from the North…
Back over in the halls of South Carolina’s Congress…
The next part of the film is maybe the most disturbing to me. And the Klan is still yet to come. Being someone who is entrenched in studying the Reconstruction period of American history and having honest desires of pursing an academic career in that area of study — this is perhaps the most grossly exaggerated portrayal in the film. It’s certainly in the running for the most racist depiction in the movie. So, before I get into it, I want to give some historical information about the South Carolina Reconstruction-era government.
Out of 124 delegates in the 1868 convention of South Carolina, 73 of them were Black or of mixed ancestry. All of those were Republicans. They wrote a local constitution founded on women’s rights, public education and racial equality. They championed for extended voting rights to all men; something that the Lost Cause narrative plays heavy handed into as a negative — and still echos loudly today. Despite what is reported by Southern Whites of the time, these Black Representatives where educated and distinguished men. Robert Smalls was one of them. If you don’t know who he is, do yourself a favor and look him up — he’s quite the badass. Smalls escaped from slavery, stole a Confederate ship, then went back and saved his family — while sailing the ship through enemy waters to freedom. Then he went on to serve in the U.S. House and Senate. Tragically, the Ku Klux Klan would terrorize and murder these men to get them out of office. South Carolina was probably the worst area for Klan violence and it makes sense as to why it would be the central location chosen to rewrite this history. I’ve put some links in the references at the bottom for more information about Robert Smalls and the representatives from South Carolina.
Oh! I forgot to mention this earlier, but there are plenty of Black actors in this movie. More than I was expecting for the era. Griffith just uses Black-face to over exaggerate stereotypes. Grotesquely so. Much to the style of minstrel shows of the day. I will just let the pictures do most of the taking for this part.
Now that the Negroes have control of the house the sinister plan can be hatched. Silas Lynch is appointed Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina. While walking down the street he picks up and kicks a dog (presumably one of those Cameron puppies) for no reason. Told you those puppies would be important.
Now his Freedman’s Bureau has free reign over the region, some of them not at all qualified for the job…
After multiple “outrages” with these carpetbaggers, Ben “Little Colonel” Cameron goes off in search of an answer on how he can restore honor and order to his beloved Southland…
That is verifiable text from President Woodrow Wilson’s set of books he wrote on American History. While he did mention the Klan’s violence being unfortunate, his own record on race relations as President left much to be desired. He made interracial marriage a felony in D.C., segregated the military, and also kept his offices segregated as to “ease the friction.” He also worked hard to silence outspoken Black scholars and activists of the time like, Monroe Trotter, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey. Also, after screening this film at the White House, Wilson declared that it was like “writing history with lighting.” Fire and blood, too.
I’ll just let the stills and my captions tell the rest of this story…
After the lovers go on a honeymoon and order and honor has been restored to the South, we get a surprise visit at the very end of the file — not unlike a Marvel movie tag teasing the return of a hero…
… Jesus appears on screen right as the credits are about to roll. I was shocked, honestly. I can’t recall ever hearing or seeing anything about Jesus Christ being in this film. If I did it was glossed over. The Reconstruction-era Klan did not incorporate Christianity, they had quite a flare for the occult. However, the Klan that spawned out of this movie was heavily based in Christianity — making it a requirement for membership. They would be anti-catholic for the first few decades of the twentieth century, being exclusively White protestant.
Phew! That was tough to get through, but I’m still glad I did so. Overall I give the film 4 out of 10 burning-crosses (don’t ask how I come up with that score, I don’t know). Given that it started the movie industry and there really is some great cinematic shots in this film — ones that I chose not to include in the stills above — it has it’s place in cinematic achievement. However, the legacy of this film is that it helped rebirth and recruit for the Ku Klux Klan, Wizard Simmons openly bragged about that. Membership was in the multi-millions in the 1920’s —the country being well entrenched into Jim Crow segregation by this point. The power of film and television cannot be understated. This was the Lost Cause agenda brought to the masses, shown in a groundbreaking way, that has left a lasting impact on this nation. By tweaking the narrative to show love for Lincoln, they made it much more palatable for Northern Whites to accept the Reconstruction atrocities of the KKK. The film down played the finger pointing between the Whites of who was to blame for the war, and placed it on the Radical Abolitionists and Mulatto’s. The Klan used all these things to recruit based on the growing antisemitism and anti-catholic movement in the North, playing into the national pride in these men — getting them to accept the proverbial rug that race issues are swept under in the South. The rug that hopefully we are pulling up for the last time now. That’s part of why I do these, the bodies are still being found under these rugs — they just started an excavation dig in Tulsa last month.
I’ve said about all I can say on this for now. I appreciate y’all taking the time on this and please feel free to reach out with any questions or feedback. Also, please take the time to checkout some of the links below. Love to all y’all!
-James C. Marshall, August 12, 2020
Wade, Wyn Craig. 1987. The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America. Simon and Schuster. ISBN: 9780671414764.
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2010. They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. ISBN: 9780544225824.
Reconstruction: America After The Civil War. Created by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Dyllan MCGee. A joint production of INKWELL FILMS and McGEE MEDIA. PBS. 2019. Episode 4.
Seriously, have you read this proposal? It’s only 14 pages. You should read it. I guarantee you will not find the things that the most outspoken critics harp on about. Certainly not whatever this claim of costing trillions of dollars is that I keep hearing on political ads around Atlanta. Or Sean Hannity’s slanderous squawks of banning burgers. The deal is accepting agreed upon climate change data and the need for action. But, it doesn’t ask the Untied States to pay for the world to fix it, rather it paves way for us to correct course on this (and other major issues) while providing a path for a stable economic future for ALL. Whatever your feelings are on climate change—and I am not here to debate it’s existence (unless you have a PhD and have conducted your own research)—this legislation proposal is not the big bad wolf they make it out to be. Well… it could be depending if you have something to loose from it or not…
This deal has three main goals:
to create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States,
to provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States; and
to counteract systemic injustices: Now, therefore, be it.
In my opinion, they lay out a good proposal for what number 3 really is and what it would be to fix it. It’s not that complicated. And this is a proposal at its core. It’s meant to be amended and drafted upon. But, the outline is to lay out an economic plan that provides equality for all citizens of the United States, while also addressing major; climate, healthcare, housing, and educational issues. Proposing that workers be given oppurtunites for stakes in the companies they work for; ensuring that jobs created are NOT sent oversees (this may shock some, but these “leftists” may actually care about American workers more than these ultra-capitalist types); creating huge infrastructure overhaul—which in turn would create millions of well-paying jobs.
Building a high-speed rail system across this country should be something we are already doing. But, we are still fighting oil lobbyists instead. The people who give the talking points on what this “is” are lying to you about it. The oil industry is not a sustainable future for this country (the world for that matter) and we are already losing out on the green industry race to China and others. All because we have a problem with truth and humility in this country.
Admitting that even some of this science is true means the potential end of a way of life for the elite billionaire-class. This is why they feed you a steady diet of red herring like—Marxism, communism, socialism, etc.. on the news every night. Evening out the playing field for the worker means admitting lies that have been told to the masses for generations now. Most of these all in the name of profit. The nightly news feeds our fears against each other to distract from potential common ground solutions like what is offered in this bill. Why do you think the establishment Democrats don’t support this either? They would lose too.
Throw your whataboutisms aside, including those thoughts on Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and actually read this in it’s entirety. It’s similar to FDR’s New Deal and one of the more straight-forward pieces of legislation I’ve read in a while. The way some of y’all talk about this, I though I was in for an all-nighter. If you have an issue with the proposals laid out, you may want to ask yourself why? Like why do you personally have an issue with that? And I am not talking about the climate science. You can deny that if you want, but if you still have a problem with actually equal rights and the means to a better future—then what are we even doing?
Seriously form your own opinion on this stuff. This legislation is meant to be the start to developing a better and more sustainable world. No where in there did I see the end of America and capitalism… just calls for transparency and equality—that would help end some of the “crony” capitalism—there is a ginormous difference that needs to be understood in today’s world. It’s scary that demanding rights for the working-class gets you labeled as an extremists in this country. And half of the working-class eats so much red-herring that they think communism and socialism are really things in this country. It’s real paradoxical to see working-class people bend the knee to a statist regime, while yelling about “socialists” coming to take their freedoms away. Failing to see that these “socialists” are just people asking for worker protections and things that would benefit them. The majority of the time more than anything the other party ever has to offer the working-poor.
Don’t get me twisted either, I see little difference between the “establishment” Democrats and the GOP, they all want this crony capitalistic caboose to keep on running for all-time. But, the difference in the democratic party, is there are at least some progressives who aren’t paid for—who propose legitimate change like this. No one in the GOP is allowed to speak out against their party anymore, they get replaced as soon as they do and lose funding for future bids…
…alright that is enough politics for me tonight, this was all just off the cuff. I’ll be back soon with an article about the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 and my thoughts on that man named Henry W. Grady and his “New South”.
While I’ve been calling this—Revisionist History Book Club—please note that many of these books, texts, speeches, and pamphlets—are the original textbooks used for education. These are the ones that actually called for the revisions to be made, or still do. Whether that be from misinformation, omission of truth, suppression of voices, or flat-out denials of equal opportunities of rights and education. There was an aimed purpose in not telling the entire truth after the Reconstruction period—setting the standard for shaping the minds of future generations, while also “vindicating” the Old South’s glory.
Historian-General of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Mildred Lewis Rutherford, set forth the guidelines for their “Lost Cause” crusade at the United Confederate Veterans reunion in Atlanta, Georgia in October of 1919. There had been some stumbling blocks on getting the exact messages across in the new Jim Crow South and it was time to reel it in (they didn’t have a big hit with their pro-KKK primer in schools, except for Mississippi). During this reunion a committee of five former Confederate Generals would approve Miss Rutherford’s proposal—then the Sons of Confederate Veterans appointed a committee of five to oversee the implementation of this program, as was advised for every SoCV and DOC chapter to do the same across the South. The mission was to use this pamphlet as a “measuring rod” for what they outlined as the “truth” throughout schools and universities in the South and beyond.
If I didn’t personally recognize that they at least somewhat succeeded in this mission, then I would not be doing this. In my opinion they were incredibly successful. I’m using this blog to document my research on some of this along the way. I am not a scholar on the subject (yet), and I always welcome feedback. I’ve been trying to put myself far into the perspective of Southerns of the time and I honestly have some sympathies for what occurred immediately following the war. But, these economic hardships are used to excuse the horrible reality of the entire foundation of the culture of the South. White Supremacy. The violence that occurred to reestablish this culture, and which was used to uphold it thereafter, cannot be swept under the rug. I’ve talked in previous writings about the murders, savagery, and terrorism carried out by the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction. This paved the way for the South to rule through mob and lynch law—one that no longer need the hoods. A Tuskegee Institute study reported that at least 3,438 Blacks were lynched between the years of 1882-1951. Truthfully, the number is probably higher. During this period of lynch law, it became a priority for the South to tell the “truth” of the their role in the Civil War and on slavery, as well as to restrict the education of the Black population. That is where the UDC comes in.
Miss Rutherford’s Measuring Rod sets a very strict set of rules to follow when it comes to talks about the South. I think if anyone who grew up down here is honest with themselves they can see that these teaching parameters were clearly met in some way or another. These restrictions made their way into textbooks across the country as well. I’m working my way through some of them now and will write my “reviews” when I’m done. For the record, that includes some slanted Northern textbooks too. While the DOC and SoCV wanted to instill their heritage and values to White Southern youth—part of the reality is that these books were handed off to underfunded Black schools, where they were exposed to a Lost Cause narrative that depicts them as inferior. They stripped away the civil rights and culture of African Americans across the South by controlling what went into these books—excluding the voices of freed slaves and Black scholars.
Below I’m going to breakdown her guidelines. There is a link to the original text in the references below, as well as the links to speeches from her recommended Southern authors that I’m going to cite. I couldn’t help but to take some shots, just know everything in bold and italicized is verbatim.
The Do’s and Do Not’s for rejecting textbooks
DO NOT REJECT BOOKS THAT:
…do not contain all that the South claims. Not all books are encyclopedias. There ain’t enough trees in all the Talladega National Forrest to print that set of encyclopedias.
…does not mention your father, grandfather, your personal friends—it would take volumes to contain all of the South’s great men and their deeds. Seriously, this is the requirement. There is only so much heroification to go around.
…may disagree with your estimate of the South’s great men. C’mon y’all, save the tall tales for the fishin’ trip.
DO REJECT BOOKS THAT:
…speaks of the Constitution being anything other than a compact between Sovereign States. They really hit this one home a lot. My thought on this is that it helps retain the narrative that the South were the real stewards of the principles laid out in the Constitution. By suppressing opposing points of view, of course.
…fail to give principles which the South fought for in 1861, and does not clearly outline the interference of rights provided by the Constitution that caused the South to secession. Goes into the above and continues to hammer it home that their Constitutional rights were violated. If you read into the succession articles you’ll see much of this has to do with property rights—you know what kind of property.
…calls a Confederate a traitor, a rebel and the war a rebellion. They really fought for this one hard. I’ve talked before about the paradox of being Patriotic Confederates in the 20th and 21st century—this is where that really starts to form.
… say the South fought to hold her slaves. I can’t with this one. There is a lot put into the sentiment of the testimonies of poor farmers of the time, but it excludes the literal words of the planter class that succeeded from the Union. There will be more on that below, but there is absolutely no way to deny this as a reason.
… speak of the slaveholder as cruel or unjust to his slaves. Excludes the words of the freed slaves themselves—while giving insulting and almost comical, and fictional accounts of “happy” slaves. The documented truths of slavery are appalling and these early stories of “mammy” and “ole uncle wash” are similar to the minstrel shows of the day that helped create terrible and lasting stereotypes.
… glorify Abraham Lincoln and vilify Jefferson Davis, unless a truthful cause can be found before 1865. I like that they left this one open-ended. Otherwise, I understand why this was here—some of the textbooks coming out of the North were certainly slanted this way.
… when a book fails to tell of the South’s heroes and their deeds when the North’s heroes and their deeds are made prominent. Tit for tat I suppose.
Their “Truths of History”
The Constitution of the United States (1787), was a compact between sovereign states and NOT perpetual or national. The Southern politicians and aristocrats were great speakers and made plenty of solid Constitutional arguments in their favor. But, they like to dance around the humanity of the issues at hand. It’s hard to accept that slavery is an issue when you view a slave exclusively as property. I’m serious, when you read the Confederate politicians arguments in the decades leading up to the war—keep a mind set that they are arguing about their Constitutional property rights. Some, with little to no thought on the humanity of their slaves. It will shift over time—making the argument that it’s in their best interest, etc… you know the drill.
Secession was not rebellion. This one goes into their same constitutional arguments and will continually blame Northern aggressors. Many abolitionists of the time were no doubt agitators, they were trying to end slavery—an institution which the South made clear they had no intention of ending. Plenty of the Southern response speeches and writings to abolitionism are essentially the modern-day equivalent of “I wish a mutha would.” I’m serious, there was a lot of well-worded goading going on. This war was inevitable.
The North was responsible for the war between the states. Same as above really. She blames Lincoln and abolitionists solely for the war. Failing to have even an inch of introspection.
The war between the states was NOT fought to hold the slaves. It just was. The refusal to stop the institution of slavery lead to this entire conflict and they said it themselves. But, she starts whataboutisms; offering up Lincoln’s inaugural address where he states he won’t interfere with slavery, that Grant owned slaves and Lee freed his, that Northern troops had slaves too. This still doesn’t address the issue of the South’s actual stance on the institution of slavery—something they avoid addressing at all costs after reconstruction. And Lincoln reversed course, like it or not, that’s what happened and is well documented. The politics of this time are insane, no doubt. However, the lasting legacy of the war was white supremacy and failure to be honest about the past is the issue we still deal with.
Slaves were not ill-treated in the South. The North was largely responsible for their presence in the South.I talked about this one a little already and detailed it plenty in my last review of the DOC’s pro-KKK primer. If you still think this was the majority of the cases, then you need to read some more on the subject. There were plenty of escaped slaves who went on to write about it. Start with Fredrick Douglass, but there are plenty more.
Coercion was not Constitutional. See 1,2 and 3. Again, some of those dudes were pretty good at giving the old “I do declare sir” speeches in congress.
The Federal government is responsible for the Andersonville Horrors. She places blame on Grant for not exchanging prisoners. Gives no details of the atrocities and firsthand accounts of survivors. Fails to mention Wirz at all, who they memorialized. There’s a lot to get into on this one, but all accounts show Wirz and the South having plenty of blame. There was enough to go around. Still looking for that introspection.
The Republican Party that elected Abraham Lincoln was not friendly to the South. Uses the extreme examples of this. There is plenty of Northern hostility to go around, as were there Southern agitators. At some point maybe someone will carve, “The South was never going to give up slavery,” into the other side of Stone Mountain.
The South desired peace and made every effort to obtain it. Goes into what I was saying above. The South just put it off as long as they possibly could.
The policy of the Northern Army was to destroy property—that of the Southern Army to protect it. There’s some truth to be had here. Grant’s field orders to Sherman and others were pretty clear on what to destroy across the South. Sherman went a little far, but that seems to be an opinion that is born into everyone from Atlanta. Pro-Confederate or not. But, they over dramatize the kindness and chivalry of Southern Generals and leave out some of the most notorious instances of brutality in the war—like that of General Forrest at Fort Pillow.
The South has never had her rightful place in literature. Claims favoritism of founding fathers, calls for boasting of orators like; Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, John Forsyth, Benjamin H. Hill, Robert Y. Hayne, William H Yancey, Howell Cobb, Alexander Stephens, Robert Toombs. Gives excerpts from an article in “The Outlook” from Hamilton Mabie in 1899. When I got to the end of this and saw her list of great orators to hold up—my face lit up as soon as I saw that list. If you’ve been reading my previous writings you may see that I’ve been trying to show the connections of white supremacy to the Confederacy. And she gave a great list to prove that point…
Let’s start with maybe the most outspoken defender of Southern slavery of all-time, John C. Calhoun. Calhoun served as Vice President to John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, as well as serving in the House and Senate for South Carolina. I’m going to select one of his remarks from his Senate speech in 1836. To sum up Calhoun; he is where the terms “necessary evil” and “positive good” stem from when it comes to talking about slavery.
” The difficulty is in the diversity of the races. So strongly drawn is the line between the two, in consequence of it, and so strengthened by the force of habit and education, that it is impossible for them to exists together in the same community, where their numbers are so nearly equal as in the slaveholding States, under any other relation than which now exists. Social and political equality between them is impossible. No power on earth can overcome the difficulty. The causes resisting lie too deep in the principles of our nature to be surmounted.”
Senator John C. Calhoun, February 4th, 1836
Next up is Howell Cobb, A five-term Congressman and former Governor of the State of Georgia. Best known as a founder of the Confederacy, serving as The President of The Provisional Congress of the Confederate States. In 1856 he wrote what may be considered the compendium of slavery from the slaveholding states point of view: A Scriptural Examination of the Institution of Slavery in the United States; With Its Objects and Purposes. This is a lot to take in. He pretty much uses Christianity to excuse slavery, claiming that Africans should have to pay that price, like the Hebrews before them. He does document the history of slavery quite well, specifically the tribal slavery within Africa. That wasn’t exactly relevant to the matter of abolition, but the colorful detail of it all makes for what I would call excellent whataboutisms today. He really leans into the biblical examples for justification. Overall, this is a very well worded and detailed history of slavery. Again, from the point of view of a slaveowner. I can’t help but feel like this is a response to the 1839 compendium American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, published by the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS). The most he speaks on that is some colorful rebuke of abolitionists beliefs—never taking in any accounts of freed slaves of course. His entire report is below, but I can save you the time with this summary: The Bible says that it is the Europeans destiny to enslave Africans for their own advancement. Classic God-complex interpretations.
Benjamin H. Hill was a Georgia Congressman and Senator, the later being for both the United and Confederate States. While he was originally opposed to succession, he did have some pretty strong thoughts about White supremacy. He gave a speech in La Grange, Georgia in March of 1865, not long after the Battle of Atlanta. The context of this speech is mostly all about the recently freed slaves and the potential of Sherman setting up lands for these now freemen to have. He is making a rallying cry to the people for unification against this changing landscape. As is nearly always the case, it boils down to that underlying theme of the Confederacy that keeps getting swept under the rug…
“The negro, of himself, can never make, administer or execute laws for the white man. His intellect is not equal to the task of either supremacy or equality. His taste, his habits, his nature can never, by any innate charm or power, rise to social equality with the white race. And I repeat, these ends will not be reached as results naturally arising from his state of freedom.”
Benjamin H. Hill
I couldn’t find the the exact article she refereed to from Hamilton Mabie, but I did review one of his history books from the period. He is one of the more unbiased writers for the time—managing not to offer up too many opinions regarding slavery. Being from New York I can see why she chose him at the time, at least that’s my opinion. One thing he said did jump out to me though; “the negro knows his destiny is in his own hands. He finds that his salvation is not through politics, but through industrial methods.” This was after his gloss over of Reconstruction and the stripping of voting and political rights from Blacks. He joins in the Booker T. Washington school of thought of, “education and entrepreneurship,” instead of seeking voting and equal rights by going against the segregation laws of the Jim Crow South. This isn’t me speaking ill of Washington, just pointing out where pretty much all the White scholars of the time would stick with that narrative and sweep the others under the rug.
And I saved the best example for last. Alexander H. Stephens was the Vice President of the Confederate States and would later serve as a congressman and the 50th Governor of the State of Georgia. On March 21, 1861 he delivered his famous cornerstone speech in Savannah, Georgia to thunderous applause. In the excerpt below he is referring to Thomas Jefferson’s forecast of slavery being a finite institution—hence the “opposite ideas” mentioned in his speech. The entire speech is in the references below, but it only makes the point worse…
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; it’s foundation are laid, it’s cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of development, like all other truths in the various departments of science.”
While these men were certainly great orators of their times, all of them uphold slavery as the foundational institution of the South. And why wouldn’t they? Free labor is the cornerstone of the economy that the elite class in this country was built off of—the whole world for that matter. The problem is that the South was unwilling to change this economic structure. Bottom line. Slaves were property and they use the Constitution of this country to uphold their rights to it. Sometimes brilliantly so. I enjoyed reading some of these Constitutional arguments, these were educated men for their time that speak brilliantly at times on Constitutional matters, but they do gymnastics to avoid the main issue. That slavery was immoral and should be abolished. That was not an option for the planter class. Period. Jefferson, for all his hypocrisy on the issue (and there is plenty), understood that slavery was an institution that could not withstand the future. The scholars of the South seemingly used that forecast to fortify Constitutional defenses against the inevitable increase in abolition debates forthcoming. The postwar South fought hard—literally killing at times— to make their narrative the standard of the South. Sweep the uncomfortable truths under the run for another day, and make sure we keep “them” in their place.
“I have seen a land right merry with the sun, where children sing, and rolling hills lie like passioned women wanton with harvest. And there in the King’s Highway sat and sits a figure veiled and bowed, by which the traveller’s footsteps hasten as they go. On the tainted air broods fear. Three centuries’ thought has been the raising and unveiling of that bowed human heart, and now behold a century new for the duty and the deed. The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.”
W. E. B. Du Bois, Of The Dawn Of Freedom
Segregation, exclusion, and the continuation of White supremacy made it the problem of the Twenty-First Century too. I’ll be here pulling up these rugs as long as I can. And it’s not to cancel or shame anyone, I’ve admitted my own racism plenty and will do so more in the future. To me this is about telling the full-truths of history and accepting them as the standard. Then we can move forward. No one is going to forget the past—the unfortunate part is so much of it was already forgotten and intentionally untold.
“ Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of earth all one’s lifetime.”
Much is said about how the winner of a war gets to control history. Oh! Before anyone says anything to me about Mark Twain, please go read Letters FromThe Earth, first. Anyways, back to what I was saying. The problem with Civil War history is; there was the war, and then there was the calamity of chaos, confusion, and cruelty that was Reconstruction. The South lost the Civil War, but they won Reconstruction. Which was instrumental for how the narrative would be told to future generations throughout the South. The ideals instilled upon southern youth—and the idolization installed in town squares—was largely carried out by one organization:
The United Daughters of the Confederacy
Between 1865 to 1890, the Ladies Memorial Association (LMA) was an organization that worked around the South—primarily helping to raise funds to erect memorials for Confederate soldiers who had died in the war. Most of the monuments were placed in the cemeteries where the soldiers had been buried. They were often dedicated on Memorial Day, which would become customary. This is very similar in fashion to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) before them. In around 1890 groups of women began gathering with the intent to take it a step further. The years immediately following the war had seen an end to the accustomed way of life for these women, especially those from the planter-class. Their fathers fought for the Confederacy, some being of high rank. Reconstruction in the South saw the disenfranchisement of many of these Confederates, while granting rights to newly freed slaves at the same time. Life was turned upside down for many Southern Whites. Local mobs and the Ku-Klux Klan effectively terrorized the entire region to restore what they saw as the “normal” way of life in the South. These brutal tactics helped win back control of local governments and the economy—now a balance had to be made between the traditions of the Old South, and the industrial growth of the New. Therefore, controlling the narrative of the past would be imperative for how the future would be shaped. Let me back up a minute to immediately following the war, and the man who would create the textbook that would forever influence the South.
Edward A. Pollard was a journalist in Richmond, Virginia, and was born into a slave-holding family. During the war Pollard was a principal editor at the Richmond Examiner, which supported the Confederacy. The paper was noted as being hostile to Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, however. Pollard would publish his most famous work in 1866, The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates. He would argue that the war was mostly attributed to Northern aggression, stating Black Republicans as the primary source of blame. He cited their personal hostilities toward slavery, and feelings toward abolitionist John Brown, as reasons the were unfit for office. He also argued that the Confederate States were upholding the principles that the country was supposed to be founded on—while insinuating that the founders where not as qualified as they had been lead to believe. I will let his own words speak for his thoughts on slavery:
“We shall not enter upon the discussion of the moral question of slavery. But we may suggest a doubt here whether that odious term “slavery,” which has been so long imposed, by the exaggeration of Northern writers, upon the judgment and sympathies of the world, is properly applied to that system of servitude in the South which was really the mildest in the world; which did not rest on acts of debasement and disenfranchisement, but elevated the African, and was in the interest of human improvement; and which, by the law of the land, protected the negro in life and limb, and in many personal rights, and, by practice of the system, bestowed upon him a sum of individual indulgences which made him altogether the most striking type in the world of cheerfulness and contentment.”
Edward A. Pollard. 1866. The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates
He repetitively writes “slaves” in quotations throughout the book, as too dispute the definition of what slavery actually is. Arguing that it was in the best interest of Africans and that they should be grateful for it—I wish this wasn’t still a talking point, but it is. Another thing that really stood out to me in his text is his use of pronouns when talking about the principles and way of life of the South. To me, it signals a call for solidarity to take his word as undisputed fact. I’m still getting through this book, and I will definitely be writing more about this soon, but it’s almost haunting to see these dots connect. The debates that I’ve heard my entire life—no doubt stem from this book. He recounts the entire war—adding slander to the North all along the way, while glorifying the South. There’s without a question plenty of biased writings from the North. However, Pollard’s words would serve as the foundation of the text books that would be used to shape the hearts and minds of generations to come in the South. Hearts and minds that have an uncomfortable, underlying theme that people down here like to sweep under the rug. A theme that has to be brought into the light now, because keeping it in the dark is the genesis of the very problem. The hidden theme of The Lost Cause:
Now that I got that out of the way, if you’re still with me here, I want to circle back to the DOC. The Lost Cause is my main project, but I want to use this blog to do little side articles along the way. So…
On September 10, 1894, The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) was founded. They set off on a mission to correct the “falsehoods” that the North was telling—and to educate the children of the South about the principles of the Old South. They focused heavily on hammering home what the cause of the war were. Making it more about states rights than slavery. They would also paint a picture of happy slaves who enjoyed the plantation life, teaching beliefs that it was in the slaves best interest and natural state to submit. In all seriousness, they literally commissioned paintings of “happy” slaves on plantations. If you’re from down here, you’ve probably seen them. They romanticized plantation life—mint julep sipping, rocking chairs, magnolia trees and all that. They insisted that the Klan was a necessity to restore order to the South. They would help write the South’s history in ways that would glorify the Old—shining a bright light on the areas they wanted you to see—and keeping dark the areas they wanted hidden. All the UDC needed now was a historian of their own, one that had a passion for the “truth” that Pollard had proselytized in The Lost Cause. They’d find one, who arguably would help leave a lasting impact throughout the South.
“negro suffrage was a crime against the white people of the South.”
Mildred L. Rutherford, Former President of Georgia’s Daughters of the Confederacy, later appointed Historian for life of the entire organization, speaking about the brief period during reconstruction that Blacks could vote.
Mildred Lewis Rutherford, born in Athens, Georgia, in 1851, was probably the best-known member of the UDC. She was elected as president of the Athens Ladies’ MemorialAssociation in 1888. In 1901 she became president of the Georgia Division of the UDC, before being appointed as historian-general of Georgia for life, in 1905. Later on she would become historian-general of the entire organization. She crusaded for what she called “true” history. Working tirelessly to preserve the cherished values of Confederate culture. She set out to correct what she charged as, false impressions that slavery was cruel and harsh. “Slavery was no disgrace to the owner or the owned,” Rutherford often claimed. Additionally, she described the women of the Old South as “Plantation Mistresses,” and that the UDC should represent themselves as such, for preservation. She was also an outspoken member of the Georgia Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. I guess being a Plantation Mistress still doesn’t earn you the right to vote. Rutherford would help implement the UDC’s doctrine across the South in the years leading up the first world war.
Monument building was essential to the UDC’s campaign. Erecting soldiers in stone across the South was their way of vindicating the Confederacy. They went up in almost every town, city and state. Many located in town squares, directly in front of court houses—where everyone had to pass them. This was by design. Hundreds of statues went up between 1903 and 1912. During that time the UDC’s membership had grown from approximately 35,000 to 80,000. These monuments weren’t just the generic obelisks or headstone types. Many statues were erected to honor confederate generals who were known Klansmen. As I wrote on my last blog post, The UDC built a monument to Grand Wizard and CSA General, Nathan Bedford Forrest in Rome, Georgia. One of many they built for him throughout the years. The early UDC was pretty vocal about their support of the reconstruction Klan, and even memorialized them. In 1926, the Dodson-Ramseur Chapter of the UDC erected a monument in commemoration of the Ku-Klux Klan, outside of Concord, North Carolina. But, that wasn’t the end of their involvement with the KKK.
Laura Martin Rose was born in Pulaski, Tennessee, the birthplace of the Ku-Klux Klan. Rose became a member of the West Point, Mississippi chapter of the UDC, and was the prominent authority on the KKK for the entire UDC. She claimed to have known many of the original members, and had interviewed them to write essays of their praise—claiming them as the saviors of the White South. She went on to write a primer on the Klan for school children that was adopted by the State of Mississippi. She also wrote a glowing review after the premier of D.W. Griffith’s film, The Birth of a Nation, based on the book The Clansman, by Thomas Dixon. Rose said that the film was “more powerful than all else in bringing about a realization of ‘things as they were’ during Reconstruction.” The film would spark the rebirth of the Ku-Klux Klan out of Stone Mountain, GA, and membership would reach into the multi-millions during the 1920s.
This is just one example of the DOC playing a hand in education. They also established the Children of the Confederacy (CofC) with the purpose of passing on these ideals from a very young age. As historian-general, Mildred Lewis Rutherford was relentless in publishing her comprehensive monthly programs for the education of White children. These teachings echo everything we hear today, especially in the South. I’m by no means an expert on the subject of education. However, I have tracked down some of the old materials they used, and plan on getting into it more soon. One thing is for certain, the UDC was opposed to the equal education of Black children and worked to suppress their advancement.
“The mis-educated Negro joins the opposition with the objection that the study of the Negro keeps alive questions which should be forgotten. The Negro should cease to remember that he was once held a slave, that he has been oppressed, and even that he is a Negro. The traducer, however, keeps before the public such aspects of this history as will justify the present oppression of the race.”
Carter Godwin Woodson, The Mis-education of the Negro 1933.
While it’s true that many that fought for the South were poor and didn’t own slaves—the common aspirations of poor farmers were to graduate to their own plantations. The planter-class was what was revered. A poor farmer would only hope that they could work their way up to owning a bigger farm. One with more land than he could see. One that would need slaves to harvest. It’s just what the economy of the region was dependent on at the time. The cornerstone of the U.S. economy is free labor. Just throwing that out there. There are numerous writings from plantation owners, who succeeded from the Union, flat out stating that slavery was the reason for succession. Let alone stating their opinions on Blacks being inferior to Whites. But, the DOC and others would use the sentiments of poor soldiers to pull on the heart strings of the working class. Prying into the built up bitterness against perceived northern aggression—it was easy to pull this sentimentality to the forefront of White minds in the South for generations to come.
Y’all, this is systemic racism. The elite class used pains and poverty—from the war they helped create—to direct attention away from the atrocities they had made their fortunes on—so they could use race as the construct to segregate the poor—exploiting fears to create disharmony—so they could figure out new ways to squirrel away new fortunes.
This is still the system.
Those Mason-Dixon lines start to get blurry after the war, and even more so after Reconstruction. The industrial boom in the South made for plenty of natural oppurtunites for the North to come in for business expansion. Which made for plenty of carpetbagger blame to go around (I’m going to get to my thoughts about Henry W. Grady on here soon). All of this made it easy for the Daughters of the Confederacy to accomplish their mission. Which made it absurdly harder for the forthcoming civil rights leaders. The DOC has spent decades rolling back previous statements and controversies. Only in 2018 did they remove statements from their website that read “slaves were faithful and devoted and willing to serve their masters.” And they just recently removed the words slave and slavery completely from their website. Their website now has a statement regarding monuments and it attempts to distance themselves from hate groups that use the flag. I’ll put the link to the site in the references, but they firmly supported the KKK in the past, and the Klan still uses that flag and always has.
To say this is a loaded topic is an understatement. If I know one thing, it’s that most of the people that stand by these ideals, probably don’t have Klan sheets in their closets. And they’re mostly all caring people. Many of them are just proud of where they come from and all that. Maybe a little too much at times. I redirect you to that Twain quote at the beginning of this post.
I”m proud to be from the South. I take it personal when people talk down on us. I was born in Richmond and have lived in the Atlanta area since I was 3. I’m currently cooking up my love letter to the South, but as is appropriate, it has to be slow-cooked. As someone who spent their entire life in Southern schools, I say firsthand that the revisions and sentiments, first stoked by Pollard, are firmly embedded. The DOC did an exceptional job in taking this into the homes across the South. And they helped in establishing the paradox of being proud Confederates and Americans at the same time. This is a plausible deniability that Pollard introduces in the beginning of his book when he questions the founders patriotism.
There’s a difference of being proud of where you are from and who you are—than being overly-nationalistic and close-minded. As I always try to mention on here, failure to communicate and appreciate each others perspectives is the root of the issues we have today. In my opinion, The Lost Cause and the efforts of the UDC have played a primary role in this communication breakdown. They championed for segregation—helping to create some of the most sensitive topics in the country today. Everything they taught purposefully excluded the firsthand experiences of millions of Black folks in the South. The only way we can heal as a country is to be honest about these things and work to reconcile them.
CULTURAL RACIST: One who is creating a cultural standard and imposing a cultural hierarchy among racial groups.
CULTURAL ANTIRACIST: One who is rejecting cultural standards and equalizing cultural differences among racial groups.
Ibram X. Kendi
Love all y’all. Oh, and I finally got my computer working, so hopefully I will be writing a lot more now. I was just doing all this on a phone until now.
-James C. Marshall, July 13, 2020.
Pressly, Thomas J. 1954. Americans Interpret Their Civil War. Princeton University Press.
Cox, Karen L. 2003. Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters Of The Confederacy And The Preservation Of Confederate Culture. ISBN: 9780813026251. University Press of Florida. 1-5,37,39-41,49-50,105-110,135-137
Franklin, John Hope. 1961. Reconstruction After the Civil War. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0226260763.
Wade, Wyn Craig. 1987. The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America. Simon and Schuster. ISBN: 9780671414764.
Pollard, Edward A. 1866. The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates
Woodson, Carter Godwin. 1933. The Mis-education of the Negro.
“Well, at least we’re not Mississippi!” That’s a phrase I’ve used many times throughout my life. Normally when talking about the latest embarrassment from the State of Georgia. Embarrassments that generally stifle any progress the State makes. Everything ranging from Honey Boo Boo to voter suppression; snowpocalypse to a school hosting its first integrated prom in 2014; epic sports losses to the world’s largest Confederate monument. So that was always my excuse for monuments like the one on Stone Mountain. “Well, Mississippi has a statue of KKK Grand Wizard, Nathan Bedford Forrest on their highway, so at least we’re not Mississippi!” But, my self-righteous need to condemn someone else’s shortcomings kept me from looking right here at home. And for the record, I love Georgia. And Atlanta. Probably more than most things. Hearing people from the outside belittle this state, even if they have a good point, is painful and a sore spot for many of us. So, I wrote this with the intention to lay out sourced facts, as well as my opinions and a couple possible solutions. I did a piece about my personal thoughts on monuments and flags a few weeks ago, the link is below.
It was April of 2016. I was in attendance of a counter-protest for what the Ku-Klux Klan dubbed “Rock Stone Mountain.” They had been boasting that thousands of Klansmen would be there in full regalia. This was a confrontation I had been itching for my whole life. When I was a boy, I had witnessed a Klan rally at Stone Mountain. It would fuel a paranoia within me for years. It didn’t help much that some kids had put on a Klan ritual during show and tell in elementary school. Also, my middle schools mascot was originally called the Phantoms. The mural in the gymnasium had a group of kids in “ghost” costumes around a bonfire in front of Stone Mountain. You can imply whatever you want. I certainly did. So, the Klans purpose had worked on my young mind. I guess I was afraid of ghosts. But I’m white. So, I can’t begin to speak about what it’s like for Black people to be reminded of this ugly history. Especially when the truth has been so drastically suppressed.
Much to my disappointment on that day, the Klan did not show. Only a handful of the “heritage not hate” types had. People were super stoked, they thought they had won a victory over the Klan. I was not. I didn’t expect them to show in the first place, but was disappointed nonetheless. I wanted vindication. When I got home, I saw that a handful of robed klansmen and neo-nazis had been in Rome, Ga instead. This were amusing to me at first, but quickly lead me into a little research about Rome and one thing really jumped out at me…
“Wait, there’s a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Georgia?!”
All I had known of Rome, Ga before this was that they were home to our single-A baseball team and they play in a small replica version of Turner Field. I plan on seeing a game there once that’s a thing again. I feel a big issue in our society is lack of communication and not allowing everyone to tell their stories and truths. The main purpose of my blog has been to try and relate my experience to others in hopes they will allow for others to do the same. And I have nothing but respect for how the community of Rome, GA has been handling this. I think it’s an absolute gold standard of how these issues can be handled in a community. I’m bringing light to this as a whole because the things I heard in their meeting hit home with what I keep hearing and feeling from people everywhere, myself included. These monuments don’t tell the whole story and they often misrepresent the truth. Which is the problem. The complaints of bringing them down are always about changing history. But, history was changed when they put them up. This is about truth and equality. Generations have been miseducated and we have a chance to set a standard for how to reconcile these things right now. It starts with the whole truth and context.
In 1902, on 5th Avenue and Broad Street, in downtown Rome, Georgia, a Black man was lynched in front of a crowd of 4,000 people. At least 4 in total were lynched in that spot throughout the years. In 1906, the statute of Nathan Bedford Forrest was erected on Broad Street by the Daughters of the Confederacy. One of many dedicated to telling their story of the “lost cause.” In 1952 it was moved to Myrtle Hill Cemetery. I’m happy that when I visited, I drove to the very top of the cemetery first. It allowed me to take in the panoramic view of this beautiful downtown nestled into the mountains first. When I turned around and looked all the way down, I could see that statue was positioned to face towards the opposite side of town. I don’t think that was a mistake. It’s certainly how the people of the community describe the placement of the monument. And those sentiments are echoed in the recent community meeting.
I really want the people of Rome to speak about how this monument impacts their lives, so I put the link to the entire video of the Rome Community Services Committee meeting from 06/12/2020 below. It is absolutely worth your time. I’m genuinely inspired by how the community supports each other on this, regardless of their stances. But, I really want to draw attention to a young woman around the 1:47:30 mark. After giving her families and her own history in the community, she summed it up with “I can’t understand why the hurt it causes doesn’t matter? Why doesn’t it matter?” She was one of the last to speak and I won’t call out anyone, but many, I felt, missed her point completely. The Council concluded this meeting with two real points.
What’s the truth about Nathan Bedford Forrest?
We need to build monuments to the civil rights heroes of Rome.
I could not agree more with the need to build monuments to their civil rights heroes and it was an honor to hear some of that history during the meeting (it’s really worth your time). I want to say that I personally love to visit somewhere and learn history like that. When it’s told truthfully and representative. There was also a lot of talk about what to do with this monument and I have ideas about that I will get to. As for the truth about Forrest, I’ve been researching a lot about this for a while for a larger project that I’m working on. I’m going to lay out information on Nathan Bedford Forrest with context on the issues that are excluded from these monuments and memorials. I have cited all my sources below for reference. I’m not a professional. I am just someone who likes to write, history and is passionate about these things. Please feel free to contact me if you want more information or clarity on the sources.
root; noun, often attributive
the basic cause, source, or origin of something.
the essential substance or nature of something.
family, ethnic, or cultural origins, especially as the reasons for one’s long-standing emotional attachment to a place or community.
Nathan Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821 – October 29, 1877) was born in Chapel Hill, Tennessee and died in Memphis, Tennessee where he is buried. Forrest had settled in Memphis in 1852 and had done so well as a slave trader that he had 2 plantations and a reported $1.5 million at the time. Many books talk of Forrest being a self-made man. The embodiment of someone who had come up from nothing and a narrative that would be used for years. Forrest was described as a dashing figure at 6’1’’ with broad shoulders, a full chest, and 185 pounds. He was the epitome of what Southern manhood was known for in his day. I will let Forrest’s own congressional testimony from June 27th, 1871 speak for him regarding what he saw as the cause of the war:
Question. You were opposed to negro suffrage then, were you not?
Answer. No, sir. My view in regard to this war are probably different from those of most men. I looked upon it as a war upon slavery when it broke out; I so considered it. I said to forty-five colored fellows on my plantation that it was a war upon slavery, and that I was going into the army; that if they would go with me, if we got whipped they would be free anyhow, and that if we succeeded and slavery perpetuated, if they would act faithfully with me to the end of the war, I would set them free. Eighteen months before the war closed I was satisfied that we were going to be defeated, and I gave these forty-five men, or forty-four men of them, their free papers, for fear I might be killed.
• As for Forrest being a war hero.
In June of 1861, Forrest was authorized to recruit a regiment of cavalry for the war as a lieutenant colonel. Later becoming a general. He was known for being an aggressive commander and was thought to be the finest cavalry leader on either side of the war. His aggressive and controversial tactics are best known for The Battle of Fort Pillow. Also know as The Massacre at Fort Pillow.
Fort Pillow was positioned in Henning, Tennessee about 65 miles above Memphis along the Mississippi River. The date was April 12, 1864 and up to this point the garrison consisted of 19 officers and 538 men. 262 of them were noted as Negroes. The Tennessee-native White men at this fort were known as “homemade Yankees” by the Confederates. The attack from Southern forces was sudden and fierce. The fort was commanded by Major L.F. Booth who was killed early in the engagement and was succeeded by Major W.F. Bradford. Bradford quickly withdrew his troops from the trenches, bringing them into the fort. A flag of truce was sent out by Forrest asking for unconditional surrender. Bradford asked for 1-hour to consider the surrender. Forrest responded that he had 20 minutes. Bradford would not surrender under those terms. During those brief negotiations the Confederate forces had surrounded the fort, taking the strategic advantage at all angles. As soon as Bradford’s reply to Forrest was received, it is said a bugle sounded and a cry for “no quarter” went out. Black and White Union troops alike were said to have thrown down their arms in retreat, but were slaughtered nonetheless. There’s much debate on the details, but little debate to be had about the dead. Forrest’s report was that he lost 20 killed and 60 wounded and they had buried 228 Federals in the first evening alone. He had called it a “fair fight.” Many firsthand accounts from soldiers on both sides do not reflect that statement.
One of Forrest’s Sergeants, Achilles V. Clark, wrote to his sisters on April 14th, 1864:
Our men were so exasperated by the Yankee’s threats of no quarter that they gave but little. The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor deluded negros would run up to our men fall on their knees and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. The whitte [sic] men fared but little better. The fort turned out to be a great slaughter pen. Blood, human blood stood about in pools and brains could have been gathered up in any quantity. I with several others tried to stop the butchery and at one time had partially succeeded but Gen. Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased.
Another survivor of Fort Pillow wrote to Senator Benjamin Wade after President Johnson fully pardoned General Forrest. He detested the thought that “a foul fiend in human shape” like Forrest who was known for “butchery and barbarity,” had received a swift, unconditional pardon instead of “the punishment which his atrocious crimes so richly deserve.”
• As for Forrest being the savior of Rome, GA
In April of 1863 Forrest was dispatched to defend the back country of Northern Alabama and Western Georgia. Union Colonel A.D. Streight had been given command of about 1800 men with orders to proceed to Northern Georgia, cut the railroads in Bragg’s rear, destroy all depots of supplies, manufactories of arms, clothing, etc. His orders intended to capture Rome and Atlanta as well, but he was harassed by Forrest, who had less men, but a superior cavalry force. Forrest chased Streight for 16 days catching up to him on May 3rd, 1863 in Cedar Bluff, AL. Streight surrender 1365 men to Forrest from what’s reported as general exhaustion. Rome would later be captured, as would Atlanta. Forrest only delayed the inevitable. Sherman would burn Atlanta and the Union would win the war. Slavery was supposed to be abolished in the South and the region entered into an era of turmoil known as reconstruction. The thing with rebuilding is, whoever ends up in charge gets to tell how it was done.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 overturned The Black Codes and stated that Blacks had the right to make contracts, to sue, and give evidence, to own and dispose of property and were entitled to equal protection under the law. President Johnson was not a fan of this and vetoed it immediately. However, Congress overrode the veto a month later and The Civil Rights Act went into effect. Shortly after that was The May Day riot of 1866 in Memphis, Tennessee that resulted in at least 46 Blacks being killed. In response Congress would pass the 14th amendment to strengthen the Civil Rights Act. Johnson was also not a fan of this one. He would advise all Southern states not to ratify the amendment. Some would hold out for quite a while.
The new laws of reconstruction and equal rights did not sit so well in the South. Former Confederate Leaders were barred from holding office due to the fourteenth amendment. So, reconstruction meant that the South’s most revered men would no longer be able to hold a public office. Also, the men they had once owned were now allowed to vote and had equal protections under the law. A counter-response to reconstruction was needed to restore the Southern way of life that they had gone to war for in the first place. Many of those who had fought in the war were poor farmers and laborers, not left with much. Newly freed Blacks, as well as carpetbaggers and federalists were seen as a very large threat to the economic opportunities of these men. So, fears were very easy to be exploited on, as always.
. . . Total depravity, human hate . . . do not explain fully the mob spirit in America. Before the wide eyes of the mob is ever the Shape of Fear. Back of the writhing, yelling, cruel-eyed demons who break, destroy, maim and lynch and burn at the stake, is a knot, large or small, of normal human beings, and these human beings at heart are desperately afraid of something. Of what? Of many things, but usually of losing their jobs, being declassed, degraded, or actually disgraced; of losing their hopes, their savings, their plans for their children; of the actual pangs of hunger, of dirt, of crime. And of all this, most ubiquitous in modern industrial society is that fear of unemployment.” – W. E. B. Du Bois
•As for Forrest being the first Grand Wizard of the Ku-Klux Klan.
the side or part of an object that presents itself to view or that is normally seen or used first; the most forward part of something.
the foremost part or part of an armed force; the furthest position that an army has reached and where the enemy is or may be engage
The Ku-Klux Klan was started in Pulaski, Tennessee in late 1865 by 6 friends who were bored in life and looking to start a secret society. They’d go on night rides throughout the town in costumes, causing mischief. It quickly grew into more. It’s unlikely they knew at the time what the Klan would really become, but it was welcomed nevertheless. Reports of numerous bands of ruffians committing “the most fiendish and diabolical outrages” on freed Blacks were being reported by the Freedman’s Bureau from all around the South. All these hoodlums lacked was real leadership to deal with the threats of Radical Reconstruction. The Klan would claim to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers, returned for revenge, while they were out terrorizing in the night. So, who better to lead these ghouls than the infamous, General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Confederate Captain John W. Morton set out in 1867 to recruit his former Cavalry Commander. Forrest described his return home from the war as “A beggar when I came out of the army I was completely used up – shot all to pieces, crippled up and found myself and family entirely dependent.” His later congressional testimony would contradict this statement, as do his financial holdings at the time. Forrest had been known to his men during the war as “The Wizard of the Saddle” for his mastery of cavalry. His controversial war reputation only helped the Klans cause. Forrest found himself charmed and obligated by the call to duty from the KKK and would take up the mantle as the Klans first “Grand Wizard.” One Klansman had stated that “Forrest commanded more brave men in the invisible army than he did while in the Confederate army.” In 1974, during another revival of the Klan, new Grand Wizard, David Duke, stated that he was moving the Klan to return to the examples of Wizard Forrest and the reconstruction era legends.
Grand Wizard Forrest’s Klan spread like wildfire throughout the South. They drew members from all classes of White men – Poor and rich; small farmers, poor labors and rich planters; lawyers and doctor; judges and sheriffs; clergy and churchgoers; educated and unlettered. Following the war, Forrest had made a career as an insurance salesman as well as being President of two railroads. This gave him frequent travels throughout the south. Everywhere Forrest would travel, Klan activities and new dens would soon follow. Between January and May of 1868 he would use his travels to recruit esteemed leaders for his Invisible Army. He met with former Confederate John B. Gordon in Atlanta in March and days later the first Klan notices appeared in the state. Gordon would become Georgia’s first Grand Dragon of the Ku-Klux Klan. Gordon was also a U.S. Senator and 53rd Governor of the State of Georgia. His statue is located outside the State Capitol in Atlanta. Also, Klan notices are making a comeback again, FYI.
Following radical victory in 1867, the Tennessee Klan got busy. Between June and October 1867, it was reported that 25 murders, 83 assault and batteries, 4 rapes and 4 arson’s had victimized innocent citizens of Tennessee. Governor Brownlow called for the Tennessee Militia to put down the rebellion of Klan that had been causing murder and violence throughout middle and western Tennessee.
On August 18th, 1868 Forrest interviewed with a reporter from the Cincinnati Commercial. Forrest boasted to the reporter that should he use this militia, he has an army called the Ku-Klux Klan of 40,000 men in Tennessee alone. About 550,000 throughout the South. Forrest would later go onto make corrections about his involvement with the Klan and his intentions of this statement during his congressional testimony. He did confirm those numbers with his corrections though. If those numbers are true that would mean that half of Southern White men were members of the Ku-Klux Klan at the time. The levels of involvement is of course unknown and disputed. It is a secret society, y’all.
Defenders of Forrest often dispute his intentions of what he wanted for the Klan or his level of involvement. Most of what’s written shows that he did intend for them to be more gentlemen like in their business. And that’s where himself and the other confederate leaders he had recruited came in. John B. Gordon, John T. Morgan, Albert Pike, Zebulon Vance, to name a few. He amassed the most influential Confederate leaders and statesmen he could, all would later become political leaders around the South. While he may have publicly denounced violence, the Klans savage methods of intimidation won back the government throughout the South and ended reconstruction. This is where the beginning of the revisionists history really started. That’s a different story I’m writing.
For what it’s worth, Forrest did issue “General Order Number One” in late January, 1869. It was the only directive to ever come out of the Imperial Headquarters in Tennessee. It essentially ordered every Klansman to destroy their robes and costumes. It did no good whatsoever. Klan activity was still increasing at the time. This was likely just Imperial Headquarters washing their hands. They had a very structured organization and the front- men needed to be squeaky clean to shake hands and kiss babies after all.
On June 27, 1871, Forrest would testify before Congress in Washington D.C. He mostly spends time going back and forth about his recanting statements from his Cincinnati Commercial interview. He states that he thinks he was suffering from a headache that day, which he often had. He contradicts himself multiple times throughout the hearing. He also confirms that he was a member of The Knights of White Camellia in Louisiana. They have been reported to be Klan by multiple sources. He boasted about stopping a potential Negro uprising almost single-handed by just talking to these men, a tale that gets spun in his defense a lot. He also repeats the classic rhetoric of the day about insolent Negroes having night meetings, flagrancy, ravaging women, etc. There’s 40 pages there and the link is in the references, knock yourself out. Forrest was said to have told friends later that he “lied like a gentleman” while under oath. I do see where many of his defenders draw their talking points from this congressional testimony. Whether they know it or not. They also admit his Klan participation, but give him praise for wanting the Klan to be less violent and issuing general order one.
Regardless of how much violence Forrest participated in or knew about, he was responsible. This goes for Fort Pillow as well as being Grand Wizard of the Ku-Klux-Klan. He was a general and a leader. These men followed his orders. Surrendered men were butchered. The Klan grew rapidly as a result of his leadership and the seeds planted there still last to this day. Don’t forget that these Klansmen came back in the next century and reached membership in the millions. The tactics used to implant polices of systemic oppression still stain this country. This is Nathan Bedford Forrest’s legacy.
So, if we must leave his statues up for now, then can we add some bed sheets?
Georgia state bill 77, passed in March of 2019. It added additional protections for government statues and monuments. Including Stone Mountain. The difficult obstacle in the bill is the specifics in relocating any removed monuments:
(7) Nothing in this Code section shall prevent an agency from relocating a monument when relocation is necessary for the construction, expansion, or alteration of edifices, buildings, roads, streets, highways, or other transportation construction projects. Any monument relocated for such purposes shall be relocated to a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, and access within the same county or municipality in which the monument was originally located. A monument shall not be relocated to a museum, cemetery, or mausoleum unless it was originally placed at such location.
That last part would of prevented the Forrest statue from being moved from the spot it was originally in. Which was a spot of multiple lynchings. These bills were passed under Kemp’s administration and are moves in the wrong direction. A couple Georgia cities have recently managed work arounds. And there is certainly ways to immediately add context to them at the very least. The historic Oakland cemetery in Atlanta has done this with their monuments. The Lion of Atlanta and Confederate Obelisk both have signs giving contextual information regarding the lost cause and changing narratives of monuments. Neither of the monuments really fall into that category. These were built right after the war, solely for honoring the dead. They were built long before the Daughters of Confederacy had embarked on their mission. Nevertheless, this added context is a step in the right direction and was nice to see. It still did not prevent recent vandalism to The Lion. And that leads me to my main point.
It’s all or nothing. If all of these monuments, flags and historical markers across the country tell a narrative that is one-sided or untrue, then corrected context of a few may not matter much. Don’t get me wrong, we HAVE to start right now. And that’s a great start. But, years of miseducation and misrepresentation lead us into the situations we are in now. Many are so dead set to defend these monuments – or to tear them down – that they fail to listen to the generations who have been telling of the effects of these statues. It’s imperative that we need to correct the history and tell the truth as it reflects ALL of our population. No more cherry-picking history. The phrase “lest we forget” is often used in memorial, but the design was to make us forget that which they didn’t want to be memorialized.
If Georgia can pass a law to keep a statue of Klansmen in place, then they can pass laws to remove them. Let alone tell the truth. And we have a perfect relocation home for him right here in our home state. General Forrest was revered for his cunning cavalry skills. So may I suggest that he, and all his friends, be moved to one of our beautiful coastal islands inhabited by majestic, wild, Spanish steeds. There he can command his troops once again, as they ride through the sky, whistling Dixie… you know what, y’all use your own imaginations. But I’m actual serious about this. Put them on an island and make it a state park. Charge entrance fees, like a confederacy amusement park, then give the money collected to charities supporting appropriate causes.
I’m putting the link to the petition for removal below. This was organized by a young citizen of Rome. Please sign if you feel the need and share. There’s also a petition to save the statue. I won’t provide the link to that, but if you read this far and want to sign that one, then I sincerely thank you for your time. Love all y’all ❤️
Guernsey, Alfred H. 1866.Harper’s pictorial history of the Great Rebellion in The United States. Fairfax Press. ISBN: 0517224224. Rpt. in Harper’s Pictorial History of The Civil War 1977. 525, 528-529, 572
Wade, Wyn Craig. 1987. The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America. Simon and Schuster. ISBN: 9780671414764. 16-17, 24-25, 28, 40-41, 45-46, 50-51, 58, 59, 106, 368
Sheehan-Dean, Aaron. 2014. The Civil War: The Final Year Told by Those Who Lived It. Library of America. Vol. 3.
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2010. They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. ISBN: 9780544225824. 47, 49, 57, 75, 137-138.
Franklin, John Hope. 1961. Reconstruction After the Civil War. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0226260763. 152-173.
Catton, Bruce. 1965. The Centennial History of The Civil War Volume 3: Never Call Retreat. Doubleday & Company, Inc. ISBN: 9780385026154. 334-335.
Du Bois, W. E. B. 1935. Black Reconstruction in America. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 0195325818.
Rable, George C. 1984. But There Was No Peace: The Role of Violence in the Politics of Reconstruction. The University of Georgia Press. ISBN: 0820307106. 94.
I’ve recently embarked on a pretty large research project. I don’t want to reveal to much about what I’m working on, but I should get the first part out by next week and I plan to at least self-publish a book by the end of the year. I can say that finding balance and moderation is an ongoing struggle. Not just in my own life but it seems to be consensus in the current climate. There’s a real all or nothing mentality in today’s culture that can be infectious and distracting. Finding time for self-care is something I’ve certainly struggled with in the past. Writing is very cathartic to me and putting it into the world really helps. So, I wanted to just write something tonight to keep up a daily practice and get my thoughts out. I’ve tried to paint a few things lately, hit the road for some field research and unplug a little. I have to refocus and meditate to make sure I’m on the forward track in life. Sometime I have to quit fighting for a little bit to see where the fight really is.
And the fight here is to end systemic racism and injustice once and for all. No doubt about it. This is the fight for all of us right now in this moment. And this is a movement and not a moment. I’ve been out here in my life before and I’ve never experiencedanything like this. It took taking away everyone’s sports, concerts, clubs and bars to get us to pay enough attention to maybe the worst televised killing in modern history. George Floyd is this generations Emmett Till. We had to be stuck at home, in quarantine, to see what systemic racism and injustices really are. Injustices that affect all of us, with the exception of a handful of elites. George Floyd’s murder opened enough eyes at the right moment at the right time to fuel a fire that’s always been lit. Sometimes it’s just smoldering, now it’s burning blue. The opposition is in such a mass panic to deal out fear right now that if you just shut of your tv and phone for a week – you’d start to see some actual truth.
I’ve been trying to make a point to relate my own personal experiences with the current climate. Sometimes maybe I’m too open, but I’d rather be that then in denial of who I am. Staying silent is not an option. There’s a good reason you keep hearing that everywhere. Those in corrupt places of power seek to distract, divide and silence any would be dissenters. Facebook is maybe the greatest tool every created for mass distraction, misleading and misinformation. I can tell you firsthand that it’s designed that way.
I had to delete my Facebook for the sake of my sanity a couple years ago and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I started a new one recently to promote my art career (mostly 😬) and it’s taken a sharp turn with the climate we are in. I have the experience from before to know how beneficial unplugging is and I encourage it – even at the sake of readers or potential clients. Balance and moderation. Things in life need to be seen for yourself. Actually experienced. If you have such strong opinions on something then how well researched are you on that subject? You’d be surprised to see your bias slip away when you start to read a book and track down real sources. That’s applies to any subject. What I’ve been working on has been real refreshing to me in that aspect. I’ve been going out doing field research to see certain historical places myself, trying to get the full picture. Then finding the original texts and articles from the times and sourcing the papers I’m writing. That alone will illuminate you to how full of shit 90% of the stuff on your feed is. I’m trying to take a new policy: if I didn’t read it with sources, research myself or see it myself then I have no opinion on it. Certainly no strong one.
I’ve been outspoken about race and systemic injustices throughout my life. Not enough though. And when I was – I went about it the wrong ways. My motives were often self-seeking. Wanting recognition for doing what I thought was right. Self-righteous and arrogant, constantly standing in judgment of what others were doing wrong. Unable to see other perspectives and unable to look inside at my own faults. Introspection is the only way I can begin to get out of my own ego.
“The door to the souls opens inwards”
I’ve spent the last month plus protesting in and around Atlanta. To say that the media is misrepresenting what is really happening is an understatement. The same can be said about the national news all across the country. A handful of violent acts are exacerbated into the main narrative. Even the local news can’t help themselves with the dog-whistling lately. There are instigators in the crowds looking to start issues. Facts. I’ve seen them. We’ve turned them away from marches where they refused to allow their backpacks to be searched. They looked like they were from outside the area and honestly, those bags were bulky – probably with bricks and fire-starters. All of the organizers and protestors around the city are emphasizing peaceful demonstrations. No questions about it. And I’m not saying for certain, but I saw one of the worst undercover cops in my life at the Stone Mountain demonstration the other day. The dude was too obvious.
There isn’t a one-sided political message out here either. There are honest conversations happening at all these events and demonstrations. No one is heavily pushing any party on anyone that I’ve seen. I’ve seen the libertarian and green parties having conversations with people in the communities. People tired of the same old two-party song and dance wanting to hear from someone else. The younger generation especially has no love for any one party, that’s for certain. This is about being honest and getting results through actions. I’ve talked on here about truth and reconciliation before. There’s no way around this. And it takes action to do so. Addressing the systems is what it’s going to take. Everyone is welcomed and there are people willing to have these honest conversations that are difficult. Just leave the BS rhetoric at home. No one wants to hear YOUR stats about THEIR communities.
I saw a state trooper address a group of Black protestors outside the Governor’s Mansion the week that Rayshard Brooks was killed. It was a heated discussion but it was civil. This whole exchange could of gone worse, but it didn’t. Tensions were no doubt high. I can’t say any agreements were reached but there were multiple conversations like this happening between the police and the community that night. These need to happen and are happening. There are very few reports of this stuff on the news. Especially the national media. And that’s both sides. They sell fear and need it to keep their machine turning. Don’t forget that the people behind those desks make million-dollar salaries. None of them are out here seeing any of this with their own eyes. Let alone talking to anyone. It’s not good for their bottom line. I talked about this in my last piece, but if you’re not listening to human interest stories, then you aren’t getting the real facts. That’s the reality of the situation. That’s social science. There’s a bigger picture. But it affects us all as individuals. When someone shuts down another individuals experience from fear of not having their own heard then we can’t go forward. When Black lives matter then all lives matter. That means when we all respect each other’s experiences and get honest about what’s real then we can start to make a better world.
I think many White people, especially in the south, have fears that admitting a history of saying or being racist will get them condemned. I’ve been vocal about that on here already and admit plenty of times that I have been. It’s insulting to say otherwise and a lie. I’m not going to spoil my research totally and I’ll save the source for when I put it out but I wanna drop this nugget here:
In 1868 it was reported that 1 in 2 southern men, 18 and up, were members of the Ku Klux Klan. That means that somewhere one of your kinfolk, probably mine too, likely had – or has – bedsheets hanging in their closest.
Let’s do everyone a favor and just admit that and move on already. Acceptance is the answer.
I speak a lot about my journey in recovery from alcoholism, drugs and mental illness on here and I feel that maybe this country needs to treat systemic racism like recovery.
So, is it time for a 12-step program for racism?
– My name is James and I’m a grateful recovering racist trying my hardest to be anti-racist one day at a time ❤️🙏👊❤️🤪
“ If they took all the drugs, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine off the market for six days, they’d have to bring out the tanks to control you.”
– Dick Gregory
In my previous career, when I’d go to a training conference I would try desperately to stay awake as I listened to some monotoned Scientist make make a presentation on diabetes. While it might of made it more exciting, there was never an abrupt interruption from another Scientist, interjecting with their own data for treating irritable bowel disease. I was never daydreaming about lunch during a lethargic presentation on the importance of preemptive treatment of cardiovascular disease when suddenly, the kool-aid man burst through the wall wearing a lab coat screaming “arthritis treatment matters!” That’s what a lot of y’all sound like right now. Parrots that have been locked in an echo chamber, dying to get out. Squawking rehearsed, broken statistics and numbers – irrelevant to the situation at hand. I’ve seen so many red herrings lately, that I’d think y’all were dynamite fishin’.
It’s my belief that people use numbers to avoid the truth of a situation. Personal bias and fears can keep us from understanding the environment and perspectives of the subjects that you present yourself to be an expert on. Ad hominem attacks are incredibly common now and it’s easy to see where they are being learned. I’ve never subscribed to a political party in my life. My ideals are about principles to me, not politics. Yet, I get called a “leftist” or communist or socialist on a regular basis, meant as an attack. The lack of original thought is disheartening. So, I disregard almost any conversation these days when it’s interjected with stats from someone who isn’t qualified to present them. Especially in lieu of being able to relate your own personal experiences, doing so from a place of honesty and humility.
Empirical; based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.
My experience working in clinical research gave me perspectives on statistics and data that I otherwise would of never had. I am not a Scientist, nor am I qualified to analyze data. I was a Clinical Research Coordinator and managed a research site for some years. My main job was to protect the safety and welfare of the trial participants from pharmaceutical companies who are seeking approval for their billion dollar investments. There’s an impersonal approach to research that I could never get with. It’s understandable from a science standpoint, but from a clinical standpoint it was, at many times infuriating. We have a broken healthcare system where people get stuck using clinical trials to seek medical treatment and also use them as a source of income. That shouldn’t be a thing, but it is. There’s a lot I could say on this subject, but that’s for another time. I’ve been gag ordered before and that’s not the purpose of this blog anyways.
Working with schizophrenic patients during my last year in the field was changing for me. The research being conducted was fine for what it was, but nothing much was made about treating the root of the problem. And why would they? These pharmaceutical companies are in the business of illness, not cures. I looked around everyday at the neighborhoods that these folks came from and listened to their stories and it wasn’t too hard for me to start connecting the dots of what had gone wrong. Years of extreme poverty, lack of access to proper healthcare and education, over-policing and mass incarceration all fuel the cycle of broken homes, mental illness and alcohol and substance abuse. More Black men are diagnosed with schizophrenia than any other demographic by far. Many of these cases are thought to be misdiagnosed. Some are not. The general public certainly has a misconception of what schizophrenia is. I speak from firsthand experience that psychosis is scary, misunderstood and sadly misdiagnosed. I’m lucky I made it back. Many do not.
The second serious mental break in my life landed me in a mental hospital in New Orleans in 2016. Understandably, I was misdiagnosed as having schizoaffective disorder. The Psychiatrist I’ve worked with the last few years helped me to understand that suppressed childhood traumas lead me to develop clinical depression from a young age. I hid from my past and feelings with drugs and alcohol since adolescence. Along my path I lost control of whatever “responsible” drinking or using is supposed to be. My inability to handle stress, face my past, take responsibility for my own mess and my addictions lead me to snap mentally. Twice. This last time my family was told I would not recover, yet I did. I thank God everyday that I’ve been able to piece my mind back together. Again, many do not and they are not given the opportunities to do so.
I don’t claim to know how the brain works. I am an advocate for therapy and medications can help. I personally think we need more social programs and therapists across the board in underserved communities NOW. I feel that the systems in place are intentionally designed to keep this cycle going and we have to be honest about that. I know that for me personally, being honest and working constantly to reconcile the damage I created is how I keep from splintering my mind again. Creating avenues for others to be able to do the same is imperative. As is breaking these cycles.
Truth and Reconciliation.
So, what the hell does this have to do with why I only trust comedians and artists?
Art is an expression of ones heartfelt emotions through lived experiences. Sometimes it’s even done subconsciously. Many of the illustrations I’ve done over the years I can look back on now with a deeper understanding. There’s symbolism in some of them that I didn’t even understand when I was creating them. But, I created freely and from my heart. Using all emotions. Joy, anxiety, anger, sadness, lust, love, pain, peace. To name a few. It tells my story, even at the most manic of times. And I know this is true: I don’t even have to ask when I look at another artists work to know that it comes from their heart. It’s easy to tell right away. I know that they are speaking their truth. This isn’t hard to decipher. It’s something everyone can feel. And everyone has some kind of art they create. If you are expressing your feelings through some kind of skill then you are making art.
Comedy is almost like a survival instinct to me. Through all my lows, I’ve always judged where I am by my sense of humor in the moment. If I can’t laugh, then I’m in serious trouble. It’s a guidepost. Satire is often the best way to point out the errors in society and politics. It’s one of the oldest forms of storytelling. Ridicule of our leaders is a pastime in this country and should be encouraged. We need to be able to joke about the absurdity that is U.S. politics and lifestyle. I’ve learned more about life, history and principles from comedians than I ever have from any tv news personality. Controversial views help move the needle for issues that otherwise may go unnoticed. Brash jokes have sent me on lines of inquiry I wouldn’t otherwise go on. Dave Chappelle told the story of Emmett Till in a recent special that was very thought provoking. It wasn’t that I didn’t know who Emmett Till was, but I didn’t know the extent of the story about the deathbed confession of his accuser. It lead me to research it for myself more. He used tragedy to make informative jokes – which is the ultimate level of comedy.
So, when wanting to understand the story of a community and it’s heartbeat, I look for the stories of the artists. Anyone who tells you the truth of their heart is an artist. I choose to ignore the cold calculations of selected stats, those lie. Instead I go toward stories of those who have lived lives. I’m much more interested in human interest stories theses days than I am in hearing someone behind a desk tell someone else how their shoe is supposed to fit. A comedic overview on societal issues is much more palatable than fear based mass media anyways. And it’s almost always more based in reality.
the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea if them.
the state or quality of having existence or substance
“ we have problems all over the world today, because men cease to be individuals. We like to identify with everything other than ourselves. We like to identify with groups, races, religions, you hear it every day. “I’m Italian!” “I’m German!” “I’m Negro!” “I’m Jewish!” So what? Do you realize that when you identify with anything other than yourself, first as an individual, you have a cheap way out a lot of your own shortcomings?”
– Dick Gregory
Tell your own story before you tell someone else’s!!
the action of making one view or belief compatible with another
the action of making financial accounts consistent; harmonization
Saying something stupid, uninformed, and yes, even racist is something I am no stranger to. It’s likely that I’ll say something ignorant in the future. I’m sure I’ve already wrote something along those lines to some of y’all on this blog. The big difference now is that I’m much better about talking openly about my mistakes and committing to grow from them.
My research patient was running late to their appointment when a tech from the private practice asked where they were. “Oh, she called and she said she’s on BPT and she will get here when she gets here” I said jokingly. “What’s BPT?” asked the tech. I was kinda thrown off balanced. This clinic was near Kennestone Hospital and I had only been there for about 2 months and wouldn’t last much longer. To say I was a fish out of water would be an understatement. I did a thing I now recognize as a sign or type of code-switching.
I looked around first to see if the coast was clear. Before leaning in to tell her “ it means Black People time.” The patient who had called and made the comment was clearly joking around. But I messed up. My recognizing that I had to make sure the coast was clear before telling her what the joke was is confirming that it wasn’t right for me to tell to begin with. At least in my mind. Even if it seems minor. Someone at that office overheard and thought it was offensive enough to complain to HR on me. I was written up for making racist remarks. I was embarrassed to say the least. I called my best friend, who is Black, on the way home and he thought it was hilarious – as he normally does when I do stupid shit like this. Thing is, I’ve said way more racist stuff than that in the past and this isn’t even a good description of code-switching.
Code-switching; the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation.
Before I go any further I want to say that code-switching is something that happens in all languages and cultures. But, down here in the Deep South there’s a special kind of code-switching. White code-switching. I don’t believe this is a particular Southern thing but my experiences growing up down here is that I’d hear conversations that I would of rather not heard. Sometimes even participated in them. Some people had worked hard on these jokes for weeks. They were, or rather are, cringe-worth and incredibly disheartening. I’m not writing this to shame anyone for the past and I’m only focused on how we can heal moving forward. My take on code-switching is that it’s lead us into a modern time where we can’t be so subtle about it anymore and it does need to be called out. Below is one of the best examples of calling someone out in recent memory:
Kendrick Lamar stopped his show after a girl he brought on stage to rap along with him used a word she shouldn’t of. She used the n-word. It was no doubt embarrassing for her. But, I applauded Kendrick for doing so because it’s the only way we are going to get past this. He was incredibly polite about it and started the song over again and didn’t even kick her off stage. She apologized realizing that she was wrong. He let her stay and perform with him, just asking she not use that word. And then he told the crowd to give her a hand even though some were booing her. But this outraged a lot of White people including friends of mine and I heard arguments that Kendrick was the racist for stopping her. As if they could understand what a Black Man feels like having a White Woman yell the n-word into a mic on stage with him is like. Let alone the power that the word carries. Before you respond with comments about it just being the lyrics, go listen to his album, “To Pimp a Butterfly” in it’s entirety – reading the lyrics – then come back.
And I want to talk about what words can do. I won’t sit here and lie saying I’ve never said the n-word in multiple different contexts and implications. It’s insulting to my Black friends to do so. A big problem we are having right now is people acting as if they’ve never said or behaved in a racist way. This is about being anti-racist. I understand how I code-switched in the past and try and be better today. Meaning I consciously knew there wasn’t anyone Black around who would be offended from hearing me using words or phrases I knew would offend them. That tells me everything I need to know. It’s wrong. If I can’t say it in front of everyone then what am I doing? That’s a policy I HAVE to live by today.
In the past year alone, I’ve heard people that I have love for say things, including that word, behind the backs of people they claim to be friends with. I’m not talking about gossip. This is a societal problem and I’m not trying to shame anyone here. I do want to talk about my own experiences and hope that it encourages other to do the same. Your words carry weight. And many words were designed to denigrate whole communities for purposes of inequality. Fear keeps us trapped in hateful places and makes us unwilling to change.
I’ve had clinical depression since I was a child. I fell into a cycle of years of alcohol and substance abuse and only broke that cycle a little over 4 years ago. I talk freely about these things now because the compartmentalizing of the pains I grew up with nearly killed me. The actions of my reckless behavior could of easily taken others with me. The least I can do now is try to share some of my recovery. That’s how it works.
Traumas I went through cut deep. But the words of peers and loved ones often cut deeper. It also lead me to develop a sharp pen and tongue and I won’t lie that I’ve done more than my share of damage with my own words. Some of the ones that stung me the most were fatass, bastard, white-trash. I could elaborate along those lines but I won’t. There are two that left deep scars and I see why now. Faggot. Nig*er-lover. I’ve been called both of those by people I’m close with. To my face and worse, under their breath.
My stance against racism over the years and fights against bullies earned me those two quite a bit. They hurt. And especially when someone says them behind your back. I’m a big softie at heart. I‘m going to write about this more in the future for sure, but on my path in recovery I’ve figured out my true self and been comfortable identifying who I really am. I’m Queer. I identify as Pansexual. I have a girlfriend who understands and a few friends who get it now. I don’t talk much about this openly as I’ve been working through my past in recovery. I was sexually abused as a child and didn’t talk about that with anyone for more than 20 years. I say this now because I realized that growing up maybe I said or did things that were seen as “queer” that got that F-word thrown out. And that’s why it cut so deep. Honestly, it’s never been a problem with some of my closest friends but it is a truth I’ve been hiding from for a long time. I thank God that we have a society now that makes it easier to talk about these things openly. And I understand that I can’t even begin to feel what it’s like to be called the other word.
So, I wrote this because my own fears and insecurities put me in a place of hiding from who I really was for years. I caused a lot of damage with my own words and actions from lashing out in fear. I attempt to clean that up now by being as honest as I can and being true to who I am at heart. If sharing my experiences can stop just one from going 20 years of compartmentalizing that pain then it’s imperative for me to do so. Breaking the cycle of generations of injustice, alcoholism, addiction, abuse and mental illness is paramount. So, choose your words carefully and think before you speak or write AND if you won’t say it in front of everyone, THEN DON’T SAY IT ALL!!! ❤️❤️